People living with dementia and their car partners participate in the Minds in Motion program. (Contributed photo)

Campaign aims to change attitudes toward dementia

“Yes. I live with dementia. Let me help you understand.”

Across the Cowichan Valley, brave and passionate voices come together to challenge attitudes and stop stigma and say, “Yes. I live with dementia. Let me help you understand.”

“This is a part of my life and I just have to live with it,” says Pauline Hubick, who is living with Alzheimer’s disease.

Diagnosed in 2016, Pauline is no stranger to dementia — her mother lived with the disease — and after she and her husband Al received the diagnosis, they decided to be proactive. They reached out to the Alzheimer Society of B.C. for access to education and programs like Minds in Motion, where they have found new friends on the same journey.

While she knows that things will change for her, she wants people to understand that dementia is a progressive disease.

“It isn’t like being diagnosed one day and then entering the later stages the next,” she said.

Staying active and engaged is important in order to live well after diagnosis, and Pauline has stayed focused on a variety of activities, including knitting, poetry and walking.

That’s the premise of the Alzheimer Society’s continuing nationwide campaign: Yes. I live with dementia. Let me help you understand. While there is no question that dementia is a challenging disease, it’s just one aspect of a person’s life story.

The campaign kicks into high gear during Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. It showcases the unique and diverse stories of individuals living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia across Canada. The aim of the campaign is to change attitudes toward the disease and erase the stigma. Life continues after a diagnosis of dementia.

“We’re turning the conversation over to the experts,” says Jane Hope, Support and Education coordinator at the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s North & Central Vancouver Island Resource Centre, which serves Cowichan Valley residents. “We believe sharing the stories of Canadians living with dementia will fuel a more open, supportive and inclusive dialogue about dementia and give confidence to others who have this disease to live their best lives.”

Research shows that stigma associated with dementia is rampant. In a survey commissioned by the Alzheimer Society last year, one in five Canadians said they would feel ashamed or embarrassed if they had dementia while one in five admitted to using derogatory or stigmatizing language about dementia.

In addition to helping Canadians better understand dementia, Alzheimer’s Awareness Month provides a platform for people like Pauline to define who they are as individuals, rather than being defined by the impact of the disease.

Throughout January and the remainder of the year, Cowichan residents are invited to visit the campaign’s dedicated website to learn more about the people getting on with their life in spite of dementia, get tips on how to help end stigma, test their own attitudes towards the disease and download other useful resources.

To learn more about the campaign and get involved, visit ilivewithdementia.ca.

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