January is Alzheimer’s Awareness month in Canada and this year “it’s time for understanding” and that’s why we’re shining a light on the facts about people living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Nationally people with dementia and their caregivers are challenging misconceptions so that the stigma that surrounds the disease can be reduced. Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias is not an “old person’s disease” and it does not signal the end of a life. What is true is that dementia happens in stages, but what is always constant is that there are still lives to be lived, dreams to pursue, and people to love.
For all of us who have been touched by someone with a dementia, our vision is of a community that respects, supports and empowers people with dementia; a community in which people with dementia are socially and culturally valued; a community where people with dementia still actively participate in a safe environment. More people are diagnosed with dementia every year and choose to live at home in their community throughout their dementia journey. As members of the community we are charged with the responsibility of creating and sustaining a ‘Dementia Friendly Community’.
A Dementia Friendly Community is a place where people living with dementia are understood, respected and supported; an environment where people living with dementia will be confident that they can contribute to community life. In a Dementia Friendly Community, people will be aware of and understand dementia, and people living with dementia will be included and have choice and control over their day-to-day lives and level of engagement.
Stigma and stereotypes is a significant obstacle to the well-being and quality of life for those with dementia and their families. Here are some examples of the stigma you may experience:
• A diagnosis may test friendships. Friends may refuse to believe your diagnosis or withdraw from your life, leaving a feeling of abandonment or isolation.
• Relationships with family may change. Family members may not want to talk about the disease, perceive you as having little or no quality of life, or may avoid interacting with you.
• Others may approach your care partner to ask about you rather than asking you directly how you are doing.
• The reaction of some friends and family to your diagnosis may prevent you from seeking help from others.
• Today, over half a million Canadians have dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease).
• In less than 15 years, an estimated 937,000 Canadians will have dementia
• Alzheimer Societies across Canada provide programs and support services for people with all forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, and their caregivers.
• The Alzheimer Society is a leading Canadian funder of dementia research and has invested to date, over $50 million in bio-medical and quality-of-life research through the Alzheimer Society Research Program.
The Alzheimer Society of Hastings-Prince Edward offers free education and support programming to local individuals and families. The Society offers services in all of Hastings and Prince Edward County and Brighton, with offices in Belleville, Picton and Bancroft. For more information please visit www.alzheimer.ca/hpe.
Stay tuned next week for some additional information on alleviating stigma and creating a ‘Dementia Friendly Community’ for everyone to enjoy.