Alzheimer’s awareness month has arrived in Hope

The month of January has been set aside to help educate the community about the disease

January marks Alzheimer Awareness month, and Hope residents are on board to demonstrate their support for the important and highly stigmatized health issue by becoming Dementia Friends.

Dementia Friends are committed to learning about dementia, so they’re better able to be supportive and inclusive when dealing with the illness, which has rapidly become one of Canada’s most urgent health concerns.

“People affected by dementia continue to live in and be part of our communities, and we can support them by helping them stay connected in ways that are meaningful to them,” said Cyndi McLeoad, support and education coordinator for the non-profit organization Alzheimer Society of B.C. Chilliwack-Hope.

According to statistics, three out of four area residents, know someone living with the debilitating disease.

“Through individual action we can raise awareness of dementia and reduce the stigma attached to it,” said McLeod. Better coping mechanisms with the illness have been a positive result of the Society’s advocacy to city councils and local businesses, which help inform people about the symptoms of  Alzheimers.

Through proactive engagement with the community and education, stigma surrounding the illness is becoming less of a concern in the lives of family members and those coping with the disease. Having an outreach program that addresses social isolation while encouraging patients to reach out to others, is part of a success strategy to manage the disease.

“It’s important that people have an understanding, and that we dispel some of the myths surrounding the illness, so they know that a diagnosis doesn’t mean the end of life — we do our best to support individuals on their own journey,” said McLeod.

Care groups are also offered to help sufferers cope with memory loss and disorientation. “Each case is different — we judge the individual as one incident, and we don’t lump them into a group,” said McLeod.

There are many aspects to the illness that can be a detriment to communication, thinking patterns and the completion of everyday activities, but it is possible to live well with the disease.  The Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s Chilliwack-Hope branch aims  to help residents navigate the terrain of the illness together with their care-givers.

“Knowledge can easily translate into action at home and work,” said McLeod.

Since it’s inception in 1981, the Society has supported people living with dementia and one of its successful programs called First Link, connects people affected by dementia with the information they need. The Society also has a host of support services and programs such as Minds in Motion (which helps to keep people engaged mentally and physically, while experiencing symptoms.) There are also dementia education sessions to help with the different stages of the illness.

Hope residents can find out about upcoming education sessions by contacting Cyndi McLeod at 604-702-4603, cmcleod@alzheimerbc.org, and visiting www.alzheimerbc.org.