Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

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by David Herman

As part of this month dedicated to awareness of Alzheimer’s disease (read Dementia Disease), I wanted to post some information that I hope will be helpful to those of you living with the disease. When I say that, I am talking to those of you who have been diagnosed with a form of dementia, a caregiver, a family member, or friend of someone who is living with the disease. I use the term “dementia”, as it is the umbrella term that covers so many forms of the disease. They now say there are more than 400 types of dementia. I have yet to see a complete listing of that many types, but I suspect that they may present in combination with other diseases and manifest slightly differently, and so are given their own classification. Two of the most common are Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular Dementia.

A lot of people who are diagnosed with dementia want to hide their diagnosis from friends and family, but I feel it is never a good idea to avoid a diagnosis, or to try to hide from the facts. One of the main reasons that people do want to keep their diagnosis to themselves is that they fear the stigma that currently is associated with a diagnosis of dementia in our society.

Shelley Vaillancourt, Executive Director of the Alzheimer Society of Cornwall and district, says, “Unless you have experienced firsthand the damage stigma can do to individuals and families facing dementia”, you really cannot appreciate it.

You can find information on how you can help to remove stigma at the campaign website ilivewithdementia.ca. They cover such items as: “I am worried I may have dementia”, through to ways to try and reduce your risk of developing dementia. Some of the best ways are to eat well, exercise, socialize, challenge your brain by trying new things, reduce stress, and avoid excess alcohol consumption and smoking.

Basically this is maintaining a healthy lifestyle. A number of people from across Canada have given testimonials of how they are coping since receiving their diagnosis. Many are able to maintain their jobs and lives with only minor adjustments. Dementia is a disease like any other disease and some people are able to live with the effects of their disease, cancer for instance, and live more or less a very normal life.

Another important program the Society provides is the Blue Umbrella program, and with this they provide training to businesses and civil servants on how to interact with people living with dementia. On January 20, Mary Campbell, Education and Support Coordinator with the Alzheimer Society Lanark Leeds and Grenville, will be presenting on Dementia Friendly Communities as part of the Words of Wisdom Series. She will provide an understanding of daily dementia challenges, and will show how you can adapt your environment and thinking to promote respect, inclusion and independence for those living with dementia. She will also provide strategies to allow you to help people living with dementia in our community in the most compassionate and appropriate way. This will be presented at the North Grenville Library from 1:30 to 3 p.m., and, as always, no registration is required and all are welcome.

The Alzheimer Society is there to help, and their knowledgeable staff is only too happy to field your questions or concerns.

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