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Is the purple ribbon for dementia?

Dementia is a broad term used to describe a variety of symptoms associated with a decline in memory, communication skills and other cognitive functions. It is caused by damage to brain cells and affects people in different ways, with the most common types being Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

What does the purple ribbon represent?

The color purple has become a symbolic representation of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Wearing a purple ribbon is a way to show support for increasing awareness, advancing research and fighting stigma surrounding brain diseases.

Purple was chosen as it is the official color of the Alzheimer’s Association, the largest nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s research globally. The Alzheimer’s Association uses the purple ribbon to promote Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month every June and their Walk to End Alzheimer’s fundraising events.

Since 2008, the purple ribbon has been the global symbol of the worldwide Alzheimer’s movement. It represents the goal to raise awareness and show solidarity with the millions of people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, as well as their caregivers and family members.

When did the purple ribbon start being used for Alzheimer’s?

The purple ribbon was first used to represent Alzheimer’s disease in 1985. It was introduced by the Alzheimer’s Association as a way to honor the individual journey of each person affected by the disease. The aim was to help reduce the stigma surrounding dementia by encouraging open conversations.

Purple was selected by the Alzheimer’s Association to match their corporate color and to distinguish it from other awareness ribbons. Other colored ribbons were already being used to represent various causes at the time, such as pink for breast cancer.

Since the launch of the purple ribbon in 1985, many other organizations and events promoting dementia awareness have adopted it as their symbol. This includes the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) and Alzheimer’s Awareness Month every November.

What are the different types of purple ribbons?

There are a few similar-looking purple ribbons used for slightly different purposes:

  • Dark purple ribbon – Represents Alzheimer’s disease specifically
  • Light purple ribbon – Represents general dementia, including all types of dementia disorders
  • Purple and pink ribbon – Represents caregiving for someone with Alzheimer’s disease
  • Purple and orange ribbon – Represents Lewy body dementia, which involves abnormal deposits of the protein alpha-synuclein in the brain

The main purple ribbon for Alzheimer’s is a dark purple, Pantone 2587 C to be exact. Light purple ribbons tend to be used to promote overall dementia awareness beyond just Alzheimer’s.

How is the purple ribbon used?

The purple ribbon can be used in many ways to promote awareness and show support for the dementia community, including:

  • Worn as a pin or badge on clothing during the month of June and at dementia-related events
  • Displayed on awareness posters, flyers and educational materials
  • Featured on websites, social media profile pictures and cover photos
  • Used in combination with awareness slogans and facts
  • Flown on purple ribbons flags to mark Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month in June
  • Used as decoration during fundraising and social events

Many landmark buildings and monuments around the world light up purple on the night of the summer solstice in June to honor those living with dementia. Purple is also increasingly being used in fashion and product design to embed awareness messages.

Who wears the purple ribbon?

Anyone can wear a purple ribbon to show their support for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Some of the main groups that commonly wear it include:

  • Individuals – To honor loved ones affected or to share their personal connection
  • Caregivers – To feel part of the dementia community and raise awareness of caregiver challenges
  • Health professionals – To demonstrate their expertise in and passion for dementia care
  • Businesses – To showcase corporate social responsibility and employee volunteering
  • Schools – To educate students and unite school communities in the cause
  • Support groups – To reduce stigma by encouraging open conversations about dementia

Wearing the purple ribbon helps drive discussions around dementia and unite everyone behind the common goal of Alzheimer’s awareness and brain health.

What is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month?

June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, designated as a dedicated time to bring attention to the disease. It was launched in the United States in 1989 as “National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month”.

Every June, awareness campaigns and educational activities aim to:

  • Educate the public on symptoms and risk factors
  • Provide tips for dementia caregivers
  • Spotlight resources from local support services
  • Advocate for policies to improve dementia care

The purple ribbon is the focal point that unites all events and materials produced for Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month in June.

Key facts and statistics on dementia

Here are some key facts and statistics highlighting the impact of dementia globally:

Fact Statistic
Estimated number of people living with dementia worldwide Around 55 million (2022)
Estimated number of new cases per year globally 10 million
Alzheimer’s disease as percentage of dementia cases 60–70%
Ranking of Alzheimer’s/dementia as cause of death 6th leading cause of death in U.S.
Typical life expectancy after Alzheimer’s diagnosis 4 to 8 years, but up to 20 years
Age when symptoms first appear Usually mid 60s onwards
Total hours of unpaid care provided by dementia caregivers per year globally 18 billion hours (2022 estimate)
Global cost of dementia per year $1.3 trillion

Dementia mainly affects older adults but can also occur in younger people. As life expectancies increase, the total numbers impacted continue to grow each year.

Alzheimer’s disease facts and history

Here are some key facts on the history and impact of Alzheimer’s disease specifically:

  • First described by Dr. Alois Alzheimer in 1906
  • Accounts for 60% to 80% of dementia cases
  • Progressive, irreversible brain disorder
  • Most common symptom is memory loss
  • No cure yet, but treatments can temporarily slow progression
  • Life expectancy after diagnosis is 4 to 8 years on average
  • 5 stages of Alzheimer’s proposed by Dr. Barry Reisberg
  • Stages progress from mild forgetfulness to severe cognitive deficits
  • Hallmark brain changes include β-amyloid plaques and tau protein tangles
  • Alzheimer’s Association founded in 1980 to advance research
  • President Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month in 1983
  • $350 billion estimated cost of Alzheimer’s care in U.S. in 2022

Alzheimer’s disease is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, the German psychiatrist who first documented the distinct brain changes caused by the disease in 1906. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for the majority of dementia cases globally.

Risk factors and prevention

While age is the biggest risk factor, researchers have identified several other factors that may play a role in the development of dementia:

  • Family history – Having a parent or sibling with Alzheimer’s increases risk
  • Genetics – Certain genes like APOE-e4 can increase risk
  • Lifestyle – Lack of exercise, smoking, obesity
  • Diet – Vitamin deficiencies and low antioxidants
  • Medical conditions – Diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol
  • Mental health – Depression and lack of social connections
  • Head injuries – Repeated concussions and trauma
  • Education – Less education linked to higher dementia risk

Some ways to possibly lower dementia risk through prevention include exercising, eating healthy, managing medical conditions, staying socially and mentally active, avoiding head injuries, and quitting smoking.

Treatments and research

There is no current cure for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia reversal. However, some medications and therapies can temporarily improve or stabilize symptoms:

  • Cholinesterase inhibitors to boost neurotransmitters
  • Memantine to regulate glutamate and calcium
  • Cognitive training and behavioral therapy
  • Aerobic exercise to improve blood flow
  • Blood pressure management
  • Sleep improvement strategies

Hundreds of clinical trials are underway exploring novel Alzheimer’s disease treatments, early detection methods, and prevention strategies. For example, researchers are studying anti-amyloid drugs, neuroinflammation reduction, tau protein modulation, insulin effects, and lifestyle interventions.

Increased funding for dementia research aims to develop breakthrough therapies that can slow or stop disease progression and improve quality of life.

Caregiving and support resources

Caring for someone with dementia poses many challenges. Caregivers often experience high stress, depression, isolation, and deteriorating health. Support resources are available, such as:

  • Adult daycare services – Provide social interaction and activities
  • In-home care aides – Assist with daily tasks like meals and hygiene
  • Support groups – Connect with other caregivers facing similar challenges
  • Counseling – Help coping with grief and relationship changes
  • Financial assistance – Coverage for medical devices, home modifications, medications
  • Legal advice – Guidance on power of attorney and care facilities
  • Palliative care – Comfort care and pain management

It is important for families to plan care options in advance and take advantage of local community resources available to dementia caregivers.


The purple ribbon has become an iconic symbol uniting the global movement to increase Alzheimer’s disease awareness, support families impacted by dementia, advance research, and reduce stigma. Wearing the purple ribbon represents hope for the future, honoring those we have lost and showing solidarity with the millions still affected worldwide.

Continuing to find new ways to raise awareness through purple ribbons, educational initiatives, fundraising events, and public displays of support is key to pushing efforts forward until the day a cure is found.