Fighting the stigma of Alzheimer’s in Nelson region

The goal is to address myths about the disease, shift attitudes and make it easier to talk about dementia, says Leffelar.

If a close friend told you she has dementia, would you avoid her for fear of being embarrassed by what she might say or do? If you answered “yes,” you’re not alone.

According to a recent poll by Alzheimer’s Disease International, 40 per cent of people with dementia reported they had been avoided or treated differently after diagnosis.

“It’s no surprise, then, that one in four respondents cited stigma as a reason to conceal their diagnosis,” says Julie Leffelaar, the Nelson and West Kootenay support and education coordinator for the non-profit Alzheimer Society of B.C.

That’s why the Society has chosen “See me, not my disease. Let’s talk about dementia” as the theme of the annual Alzheimer Awareness Month, which runs through January nationally.

The goal is to address myths about the disease, shift attitudes and make it easier to talk about dementia, says Leffelar.

For example, Alzheimer’s disease is more than having the occasional “senior moment” or losing your keys. It is a progressive degenerative brain disorder that affects each person differently. Sadly, it is fatal and there is no cure.

“Although one in three Canadians know someone with dementia, it is not discussed as openly as other chronic illnesses, so the prevalence is there but the conversation isn’t yet and that’s what we hope to address,” explains Leffelar.

Today, 747,000 Canadians have dementia, 70,000 whom are British Columbians.

To learn more about the Let’s Talk About Dementia campaign, visit alzheimerbc.org. For information on local assistance, including support and information groups and educational seminars, contact Leffelaar at 250-365-6769 or jleffelaar@alzheimerbc.org.