LETTER: Thanks from the Alzheimer Society

From reader Mary Beth Rutherford

The Alzheimer Society of B.C. thanks the people of Nelson and the entire Kootenay region for their encouraging response to January’s annual Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and to our campaign intended to challenge stigma surrounding the disease.

Recently, the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences released a report by a panel of dementia experts highlighting priorities for a national dementia strategy, work undertaken by the Public Health Agency of Canada in 2018. The authors emphasized the importance of adopting healthy lifestyles that might prevent or delay dementia, as well as overcoming stigma and fear of living with dementia. They stressed that it’s possible to live well with the disease.

Increasingly, when we talk about raising awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, we need to talk about challenging stigma. Negative attitudes about the disease mean that when someone begins to suspect that they – or someone close to them – might have dementia, they are less likely to seek out a diagnosis. They’re less likely to disclose their situation to others. Worrying that someone will judge them or think of them as being less of a person means people are less likely to ask for help.

The dementia journey can be incredibly isolating. When we talk openly about the disease and challenge preconceived notions, people living with dementia begin to feel like they aren’t alone and can ask for help. They can better prepare themselves for the challenges ahead. Communities play a key role in helping people living with dementia, their families and caregivers feel like they belong, just by being aware of the disease and actively engaged with learning more about it.

With over half a million Canadians currently living with dementia – a number that will only grow as the population ages – it has never been so important to be open to having a conversation about dementia.

We would like to thank our local staff and volunteers for their work. We also appreciate the local media’s coverage of dementia issues. The stories help foster a better understanding of the impact this disease has on local families and help the Alzheimer Society of B.C. work towards our goal of a dementia-friendly province.

Mary Beth Rutherford

Alzheimer Society of B.C.

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