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World Alzheimer’s Month – Breaking down stigmas and opening the conversation

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Dementia is one of the most feared health conditions of our time, surpassing heart disease, stroke, and even cancer1.

According to a recent study done by the Alzheimer Society Canada, an estimated 500,000 Canadians were living with dementia in 2020. This number is expected to reach 1 million by 2030 and 1.7 million by 2050. For every individual diagnosed, it is estimated that 12 to 14 people are impacted. This means that a significant number of Canadians will feel the effects of dementia in the coming years.

September is World Alzheimer’s Month and we invited Kim Brundit, Collective Impact Lead at the Dementia Network Calgary, to talk to us about dementia: “What are the warning signs?”, “What can you do to prepare?”, and “How can you make the most of your time with loved ones living with dementia?”.

According to Kim, while memory loss is often a prominent symptom, people living with dementia can struggle to perform everyday activities like making a cup of tea or navigating their surroundings.

The stigma surrounding this disease often causes people to hide symptoms and avoid talking with friends, family, or doctors, delaying diagnosis and access to support. Thus, recognizing the warning signs often falls to friends and family members.

According to Kim, the number of calls requesting assessments or support for dementia often spike after the holidays when children return home to visit their parents. If you’re seeing some potential red flags after spending time with your loved ones, she recommends first seeking help from your family doctor and then reaching out to an organization like the Alzheimer Society for support.

The study mentioned above found that most caregivers are women between the ages of 45 and 54, and they spend an average of 26 hours a week supporting their loved one. This tremendous contribution of time and resources can put stress on the individual, their family, and ultimately the Canadian economy. Speaking to a financial advisor can help alleviate some of this stress by helping you prepare for the costs associated with caring for someone with dementia.

Supporting someone living with dementia can also take an emotional toll on caregivers. As your loved one’s health declines, they can become less aware of what is happening in the present moment and revert to living in the past. It can be tempting to correct their mistakes in an attempt to bring them back to the present, but this can be painful for them and for you. Kim suggests meeting your loved ones where they’re at. If they believe they’re living in a different era, explore the past with them. Ask them questions about their experiences and relive their wonderful memories with them.

As more Canadians are touched by dementia, it’s important to get educated about the support that’s available. For more information, visit https://alzheimer.ca/en or https://dementianetworkcalgary.ca

  1. Source: https://milkeninstitute.org/video/dementia-addressing-stigma

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