During Alzheimer’s awareness month, the Alzheimer Society of B.C. wants to change how people view dementia and encourage them to rethink the stigma associated with the disease.
Avalon Tournier, Alzheimer Society of B.C. coordinator for the South Fraser region, is reminding people that a dementia diagnosis does not signal the end to a meaningful life.
Tournier said while the anxiety related to a diagnosis is valid and that no one knows what the future may hold, she said there are “certainly a lot of moments of joy left in life.”
“We can’t change the progression of dementia, but we can certainly change how we live today, we can help change how the person who’s diagnosed and their family, how they experience dementia, they can still enjoy life,” said Tournier.
The Alzheimer Society of B.C. exists to help individuals who have been diagnosed with dementia and their caregivers.
They have support groups throughout the province, including in Surrey, for caregivers and people living with dementia. They also have a helpline and offer webinars and educational resources.
The term Alzheimers and dementia are often used interchangeably. Fraser Health states on its website that dementia is an “umbrella term” used for symptoms that include loss of memory and problem-solving abilities, as well as problems with thinking. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia.
The stigma associated with dementia can often discourage people from seeing their doctor, which creates barriers to getting the help they need or connecting with support systems.
An estimated 6.3 million Canadians are expected to be diagnosed with dementia in the next 30 years – unless steps are taken to change that. A landmark study released by the Alzheimer Society of Canada in the fall (Sept. 6) noted that researchers expect that by 2050, more than 1.7 million Canadians will be living with dementia.
While age is one of the biggest risk factors for developing dementia, it is not considered part of normal aging, added Tournier. There is a difference between forgetting where you put your keys and forgetting more important details like your children’s names or medical appointments.
Another risk factor is repeated head injuries, such as concussions, which puts you at a higher risk for developing dementia.
Some warning signs of dementia include memory loss that impacts an individual’s daily activities, difficulty performing regular tasks and behaviour changes. To see the full list of warning signs, visit the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s website.