January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

This year’s theme is all about helping society at large better understand the illness

January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, and this year’s theme is all about helping society at large better understand the illness.

The tagline for this year’s campaign is, ‘Yes. I live with dementia. Let me help you understand.’

Organizers say it’s all about challenging attitudes and stopping the stigma.

The campaign, which kicked into high gear on Jan. 7th, showcases the unique and diverse stories of individuals from across the country living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.

Organizers say they are turning the conversation over to the experts – Canadians who are living with dementia – in an effort to launch more, “Open, supportive and inclusive dialogue around dementia, and give confidence to others who have this disease to live their best lives.”

Sadly, research continues to show that stigma around dementia isn’t diminishing as it should.

In a survey commissioned by the Alzheimer Society last year, one in four Canadians said they would feel ashamed or embarrassed if they had dementia, while one in five admitted to using derogatory or stigmatizing language about dementia.

That is disheartening to think about, as of course anyone with any type of condition has no reason to feel any sense of stigma whatsoever. Hopefully with more conversation, more discussion and more sharing of knowledge about dementia in general, any sort of stigma will fade.

According to the Alzheimer Society of Alberta and the Northwest Territories, dementia is an overall term for a set of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain.

Symptoms may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language, severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.

Dementia is progressive, which means the symptoms will gradually get worse as more brain cells become damaged and eventually die.

Dementia is not a specific disease. Many diseases can cause dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia (due to strokes), Lewy Body disease, head trauma, fronto-temporal dementia, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease.

As mentioned, fear and a lack of knowledge are perhaps the biggest contributors to stigma and a sense of shame, so throughout January and the remainder of the year, Canadians are invited to visit the campaign’s web site (www.ilivewithdementia.ca) to read and watch the stories of people getting on with their lives in spite of dementia.

They can also pick up tips on how to help end stigma, test their own attitudes towards the disease and download other useful resources. Today, more than half a million Canadians are living with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

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