With Alzheimer’s Awareness Month underway, the Alzheimer Society of British Columbia is pointing to this year’s motto: “Don’t change. Even if they do.”
The campaign inspires others to reflect on how they can show up for the people in their lives who are living with dementia or are caregiving.
For Jane Hope, support and education coordinator for north and central Vancouver Island, this month looks to minimize the disease’s stigma.
“Reducing is actually part of our campaign this year. Stigma really makes life difficult for people living with dementia,” Hope told Vista Radio.
“What that means is how can you continue to show up for the person living with dementia in your life, or for the caregiver that you know caring for someone with dementia.”
According to the society, dementia is a term that describes a general group of brain disorders. Eventually terminal, symptoms include memory loss, impaired judgment, and changes in behaviour and personality.
Hope says people often don’t understand dementia, make assumptions and automatically turn to the late-stage symptoms, where a person may be bed written or in a wheelchair, unable to communicate.
With this in mind, she says friends and family sometimes back away, leaving their loved ones with dementia feeling alone and isolated.
“These are symptoms that may or may not happen, often at a very, very late stage,” Hope explained. “Whereas, in the early or even in the medium stages of dementia, people can really truly live well.”
While it can “certainly be a challenging disease at times,” according to Hope, the more people learn about it, the better.
She’s now pointing to DontChange.ca.
“That is the website that talks about our campaign this month but also has links to our website,” Hope said. “On our website, we have various programs and support services for people to be connected to us. There’s something for everybody there.”
Hope says people can also become an advocate and support BCers living with dementia, as she invites people to register for a free virtual event called “Opening the door: Why families are essential to care.”
On Jan. 27, from 2 to 3 pm, Alzheimer Society of BC CEO Jen Lyle will join seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie to explore the importance of person-centred approaches to dementia care.
As well, those looking to advocate for issues affecting people living with dementia or support the society can donate via this website.
To learn more about getting a diagnosis or to find services for people living with the disease, click here or call the First Link Dementia Helpline at 1 (800) 936-6033.