Dementia patients urged to go public to battle stigma

January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

Cumberland and Comox Valley residents living with dementia are being encouraged to go public for a third consecutive year in an effort to address the ongoing discrimination they experience in their day-to-day lives.

They can present their personal stories in the Alzheimer Society’s nation-wide campaign, “I live with dementia. Let me help you understand.”

It launched Monday, Jan. 6 as part of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.

Research indicates that one in four Canadians would feel ashamed or embarrassed if they had dementia. This campaign gives a voice to Canadians living with dementia who are frustrated by the constant assumptions and misinformation associated with the disease.

“Unless you have experienced it firsthand, it can be difficult to appreciate the damage stigma can do to individuals and families facing dementia,” said Jane Hope, support and education co-ordinator for the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s North and Central Vancouver Island resource centre that serves Cumberland and the Comox Valley. “Too often, negative feelings, attitudes and stereotypes surrounding dementia dissuade people from seeking help and discourage others from lending their support. By providing a platform for Canadians to share their stories, we can cultivate empathy and compassion and help break down the stigma so that Canadians living with dementia can live a full life.”

Since the launch of the campaign in 2018, more than 65 Canadians with dementia, including caregivers, have become spokespeople in the campaign, aimed at taking a stand against the stigma associated with the disease.

To read their stories and find out how you can help in the fight against dementia stigma, visit ilivewithdementia.ca. The site also features practical information and downloadable materials, including key myths and facts about the disease, as well as social media graphics to help spread the word about the campaign. Visitors to the site can also connect with the local Alzheimer Society resource centre for help and support.

Through a host of programs and services, advocacy and public education, Alzheimer Societies across the country are there to help Canadians overcome the challenges of living with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. The Ssociety also funds research to improve care and find new treatments and a cure.

More than half a million Canadians live with dementia today. Many more are family members who provide direct care or are otherwise affected by dementia. In the next 12 years, nearly a million Canadians will be living with dementia.

“The number of Canadians living with dementia is soaring,” said Hope. “So this is an extremely important campaign to pause and think about our attitudes and perceptions and build a more accepting and inclusive society for individuals and families living with dementia.”

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