Is it possible to live well with dementia?

Half of Canadians say no Alzheimer Society’s #StillHere campaign challenges perceptions.

In his late seventies, Don de Vlaming is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and is still here both in body and in mind. He wants all those Canadians who don’t think it’s possible to live well with dementia to think again.

“When I get together with other people who have dementia, we talk and we share ideas,” he says. “We relate to each other beautifully by talking about people’s interests, such as cooking or a trip someone has taken. We all get along just fine.”

What frustrates Don is that things don’t go quite as smoothly when he faces the world outside his Alzheimer Society support group. “We are treated differently,” he laments. “Other people have expectations that we can’t meet. They don’t realize that while we live in the same world, our world is a little bit different, but we are still the same people inside.”

Life continues when Alzheimer’s begins. People living with dementia can participate in life and contribute to their communities – in their own way, even as the disease progresses.

Yet, that’s not the view of most Canadians who, according to a new Nanos survey, are divided about whether or not someone with dementia can live well. The survey found 47% of respondents believe that it is not possible to live well with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.

“The goal of our campaign is to create awareness about this disease and encourage all of us to see the person beyond the condition,” says Wendy Schettler, CEO at the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba.

Recognizing that a diagnosis of dementia doesn’t rob someone of their individuality or their feelings goes a long way towards respecting and engaging people with this disease and preserving their identity.

Barry Campbell, a psychiatrist at St. Boniface Hospital, has spent most of his career challenging perceptions of dementia. “Dementia does not define someone. People with this disease continue to inspire family and friends while enjoying life’s opportunities long after a diagnosis has been determined.”

“Words and actions are powerful and can change the story of dementia. That’s the goal of our campaign, to dispel the myths around what it means to live with dementia and encourage all of us to see the person beyond the condition,” says Mimi Lowi-Young, CEO at the Alzheimer Society of Canada.

At the Alzheimer Society, research is a key priority. A lot of research is being done on Alzheimer’s and dementia and Canadians rank among the world’s top researchers on the subject. The society has proudly invested over $43 million on ground-breaking research to date.

While there is still no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, studies are focusing on understanding the pathological processes underlying the disease with hope that improved medications and treatments will be developed.

Research is also being done on improving the individual’s quality of life, exploring issues that impact the lives of people with dementia and their caregivers, including their physical, psychological, emotional, social and spiritual needs. This is a fast-growing area of research; investigators from different disciplines are addressing a range of issues and topics, such as nutrition in long-term care, driving and dementia and the impact of creative arts.

The Alzheimer Society is a leading source of support, information and education for people with dementia, their caregivers and family members. They provide support, information and access to programs and services such as MedicAlert® Safely Home®, a nationwide program designed to help identify those who are lost and assist in a safe return home, and First Link®, connecting people with dementia and their families to health services and information in their own communities.

Information provided by Alzheimer Society. For more information visit www.alzheimer.mb.ca.

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