Eastbourne woman with dementia ‘double stigmatised’ for being part of the LGBTQ+ community

  • Former police officer Christine Maddocks discusses the moment she realised she was attracted to women, being diagnosed with dementia and feeling 'double stigmatised.'

A woman from Eastbourne says she faces being ‘double stigmatised’ for being part of the LGBTQ+ community and living with dementia.

Chris Maddocks worked as a police officer for thirty years, before retiring in 2008. She was diagnosed with dementia in 2016 at the age of 60.

"When I had my diagnosis I went home and cried for three months and became a prisoner in my own home. I felt like I'd been given a death sentence.

She said: “When you have a dementia diagnosis, that is a stigma. But being part of the LGBTQ+ community is another stigma, so you are almost double stigmatised.

“I live with my partner so am luckier than some, but many LGBTQ+ people with dementia do not have partners and have not always got great family support.”

"I was in my thirties before I realised I was attracted to women, Chris admitted.

"I was working as a police officer then, and there was no way I was going to come out to my work place, because there was discrimination in those days.

"I remember having a staff appraisal with a senior officer and he asked if I was gay. I didn't admit it or deny it.

But I remember him saying 'what a waste of a woman if you are gay.'

“A lot of people in the older generation will have grown up during a time when homosexuality was illegal. Due to dementia, they can regress to a time years earlier and start going back to a place in their mind when they were criminalised and outcast, causing strong symptoms of anxiety and fright.

“It is so important to see the person first and not their sexuality or dementia.

“There are so many wrong assumptions made that cause difficulty and pain, but it only requires small changes to make a large and positive difference to those identifying as LGBTQ+."

If you need advice and support you can contact the Alzheimer’s Society by calling the charity’s Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456.

You can also download information created specifically for LGBTQ+ people with dementia and their carers.