Alzheimer Society Campaign Aims to End Stigma

The Alzheimer Society recently announced that awareness around dementia has increased, although the stigma and negative attitude around it continues to live on in modern day society.

According to an Alzheimer Society survey approximately 50 percent of Canadians wouldn’t want anyone to know if they had dementia.  The new statistics work hand in hand with January’s Awareness Month and it’s new social awareness campaign, I live with Dementia. Let me help you understand.

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“For the most part, stigma and negative attitudes around any issue, tend to be a result of a lack of knowledge around the subject,” said Senior Manager, Regional Services Julie Hockley. “When we lack knowledge and adequate information about any issue, we sometimes make improper assumptions.  It is a progressive disease that does cause damage to the brain, affecting how people with dementia may present themselves at times.  However, the person with dementia is still the same person they were before the diagnosis.  They deserve respect and appreciation for the person that they are and all that they have accomplished.”

In an online survey of 1,500 Canadians from ages 18-65 determines that one in four Canadians think their friends and family would avoid them if they were diagnosed with dementia, and only five percent of Canadians would learn more about dementia if a family member, friend or co-worker were diagnosed. 

“Changing the stigma attached to dementia will require that communities make a concerted effort to become more informed about the disease and how to best interact with someone who has dementia; to pay attention to whether our communities are ‘Dementia Friendly’,” added Hockley. “Invite a staff member from the Alzheimer’s Society to your local church, or organization for a presentation, visit the office and ask for some print material, volunteer and interact with the clients who live with dementia and their caregivers.  Simple things like being cognizant of the language that you use also help; avoid phrases such as, “they have old timers disease” or “he’s lost it”.  We no longer tolerate negative racial or gender-based comments so why would we tolerate these.”

Although there are numerous things that people should know about dementia, a couple items come to Hockley’s mind to share with everyone.

“It is a complicated disease that has physical, psychological and social implications,” continued Hockley.  “Two things that come to mind – remember that the person with dementia is still just that, a person, who needs friendship, mental and social stimulation and respect.  Don’t stop being a friend.  Stay in touch and be supportive.  A second item, don’t forget about the caregiver – the spouse, adult child and/or other family and friends who are the main caregiver to a person with dementia.  They need support, understanding and respite!”

The goal this month is to have people look up how to be more dementia-friendly and how to take action against the stigma.

“An exciting project gets off the ground on Wednesday, January 17 at the Alzheimer’s Society Brandon office,” said Hockley. “ With grants from the Minnedosa and District Foundation and the Brandon Area Community Foundation, the “Sharing Dance Program” will be piloted for eight weeks.  Participants will include members of the Society’s Support Group for People with Dementia.  The program was developed as a joint venture between Baycrest Health Sciences and Canada’s National Ballet School specifically for people with dementia and their caregivers.  NBS partnered with the Alzheimer’s Society and Brandon University and the principal researcher for the project, Dr. Rachel Herron. A thank you to all those in Westman who continue to contribute their donations and time to assist the clients and staff at AS.  A reminder that we have several caregiver support groups that meet monthly across Westman and we also facilitate a weekly support group for those living with Dementia.”


Additional survey results from Alzheimer press release:

Canadians believe that people with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia are likely to

●      be ignored or dismissed (58%);

●      be taken advantage of (57%);

●      have difficulty accessing appropriate services or supports (56%); and

●      feared or met with distrust or suspicion (37%).


Other highlights

●      56% of Canadians are concerned about being affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

●      Of greatest concern is their fear of being a burden to others, losing their independence and the inability to recognize family and friends.

●      Only 39% would offer support for family or friends who were open about their diagnosis.

●      Three-in-ten Canadians (30%) admit to using dementia-related jokes.


Quick facts

●      Today, more than 22,500 Manitobans have dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease).

●      Alzheimer Society of Manitoba provides programs and support services for people with all forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, and their caregivers to live as well as possible.

●      The Alzheimer Society is a leading Canadian funder of dementia research and has invested to date, over $50 million in bio-medical and quality-of-life research through the Alzheimer Society Research Program. 

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