Canadians living with dementia are going public for a third consecutive year in an effort to change hearts and minds and tackle the ongoing discrimination they experience in their day-to-day lives.
“When did it become a crime to forget something,” asks Manitoba resident Tanis, a former nurse living with vascular dementia.
“I want to get the word out that it's nothing to be ashamed of, let's get rid of that stigma so that people can talk about dementia and get the help they need.”
Tanis is one of many Canadians stepping forward with personal stories in the Alzheimer Society's nation-wide campaign, “I live with dementia. Let me help you understand,” which launched on Monday, Jan. 6 as part of Alzheimer's Awareness Month.
Spurred by alarming research indicating that one in four Canadians would feel ashamed or embarrassed if they had dementia, the campaign gives a voice to Canadians with dementia who are frustrated by the constant assumptions and misinformation associated with the disease.
Unless you have experienced it firsthand, it can be difficult to appreciate the damage stigma can do to individuals and families facing dementia, said Pauline Tardif, CEO, Alzheimer Society of Canada.
Too often, negative feelings, attitudes and stereotypes surrounding dementia dissuade people from seeking help and discourage others from lending their support.
By providing a platform for Canadians to share their stories, we can cultivate empathy and compassion and help break down the stigma so that Canadians with dementia can live a full life.
Since the launch of the campaign in 2018, over 65 Canadians with dementia, including caregivers, have taken a stand against the stigma associated with the disease.
Through a host of programs and services, advocacy and public education, Alzheimer Societies across the country are there to help Canadians overcome the challenges of living with Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia.
The society also funds research to improve care and find new treatments and a cure.
More than half a million Canadians are living with dementia today, excluding the thousands of family members who provide direct care. In the next 12 years, nearly a million Canadians will have dementia.
The number of Canadians with dementia is soaring, said Tardif.
"So this is an extremely important campaign to pause and think about our attitudes and perceptions and build a more accepting and inclusive society for individuals and families living with dementia.