Alzheimer awareness

January marks Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, and the goal this year is to tackle the stigma of dementia.

Staff with the Alzheimer Society are posing a question to the public – “Imagine a close friend tells 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% 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. That is tragic.

It’s hard to believe that in this day and age, and with the awareness that we have about these kinds of conditions, that such blatant stigma still exists to such a degree.

To help educate the public about this devastating disease and pain of stigma, during Alzheimer Awareness Month, the Society is launching a nation-wide campaign called ‘See me, not my disease. Let’s talk about dementia.’

Its goal is to address myths about the disease, shift attitudes and make it easier to talk about dementia. Conversations need to start about these kinds of issues, particularly when we are facing an aging population and cases of dementia will only increase in the decades to come.

Canadians are also invited to test their attitudes and perceptions in an online quiz at the Society’s web site, www.alzheimer.ca.

Ultimately, stereotypes and misinformation are what prevent people with dementia from getting the help they need and stop others from taking the disease seriously.

The truth is it’s a progressive degenerative brain disorder that affects each person differently. It’s fatal and there is no cure.

Today, 747,000 Canadians have dementia. While dementia can affect people as young as 40 years of age, the risk doubles every five years after 65.

The number of Canadians with dementia is expected to double to 1.4 million in the next 20 years.

Canadians can do their part if they learn the facts about dementia. By knowing more about the disease, they can help to dispel inaccurate information and work to change society’s attitudes and opinions towards people with the disease.

The can also maintain relationships with people with dementia at home, in the community or at work, especially as the disease progresses. The worst thing that can happen is to avoid people who are going through such a terrible ordeal – they need all the help and support we can give.

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