Alzheimer Society of B.C. campaign aims to end stigma in Quesnel

Almost 50 per cent of Canadians would not want others to know if they had dementia

Earlier this month, the Alzheimer Society of B.C. (ASBC) announced that while awareness about dementia has increased, stigma and negative attitudes about it continue to persist.

ALBC is releasing findings of a new survey to coincide with Alzheimer’s Awareness Month in January and to kick off its new social awareness campaign – I live with dementia. Let me help you understand – to spark conversations and encourage Quesnel residents to see dementia differently.

The Leger-led online survey, which canvassed 1,500 Canadians between the ages of 18 and 65, also reveals 46 per cent of respondents would feel ashamed or embarrassed if they had dementia, while 61 per cent of those surveyed said they would face discrimination of some kind.

According to the survey, one in four Canadians believe their friends and family would avoid them if they were diagnosed with dementia, and only five per cent of Canadians would learn more about dementia if a family member, friend or co-worker was diagnosed.

“Stigma significantly affects the well-being of people living with dementia,” says Sandra Meehan, support and education co-ordinator for the ASBC for Quesnel and the northern Interior, Skeena and Peace region.

“In order to build a dementia-friendly society, we need to move away from fear and denial of the disease, towards awareness and understanding.”

To tackle stigma, the ASBC is letting the experts – people affected by dementia – do the talking.

Two of these experts are Alan and Tereasa McKellar of Quesnel. Alan was diagnosed with dementia in 2009.

“This is something that we think will happen to someone else,” Tereasa says.

“Unfortunately, we’re all someone else.”

Alan, Tereasa and others invite Quesnel residents to hear their inspiring stories and take a few pointers from them on how to be open and accepting towards people living with dementia.

Their stories are featured on a dedicated campaign website, where visitors will also find tips on how to be more dementia friendly, activities to test their knowledge, and other resources to take action against stigma and be better informed about a disease that has the potential to affect every single one of us.

To help stop stigma and read the full survey, visit ilivewithdementia.ca – and use the hashtag #ilivewithdementia to help spread the word.

Other highlights of the survey

• 56 per cent of Canadians are concerned about being affected by Alzheimer’s disease;

• of greatest concern is the fear of being a burden to others, losing independence and the ability to recognize family and friends;

• only 39 per cent would offer support for family or friends who were open about their diagnosis; and

• three-in-10 Canadians admit to using dementia-related jokes.

Quick facts

• Today, more than half a million Canadians have dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease).

• In less than 15 years, an estimated 937,000 Canadians will have dementia.

• Alzheimer societies across Canada provide programs and support services for people with all forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers.

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

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