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I was pleased to co-host a recent workshop provided by the Alzheimer Society of B.C. at Berwick House Retirement Community in Gordon Head. The workshop was given by Rebecca Morris, Provincial Coordinator, Advocacy & Public Policy at the Alzheimer Society of B.C. This highly informative presentation provided valuable information about dementia and how we can create more supportive communities for people with dementia, their families and caregivers. The Alzheimer Society of B.C. is the leading source of education, support, services and information for people affected by dementia.

‘Help for Today. Hope for Tomorrow…®’ is the Society’s tagline and we know education is key to reducing the stigma and judgement of those 70,000 British Columbians who live with dementia – 10,000 of whom are under the age of 65. It is estimated that, in 30 years, more than 177,000 British Columbians will be living with the disease.

The goal of the Dementia-Friendly Communities campaign is to create heightened awareness about dementia and to support people with dementia to participate in their communities to the fullest extent possible.

We all have a role in creating dementia friendly communities, as we were told by Mr. Jim Mann, who was a speaker during the presentation. Jim, who was diagnosed with dementia at the age of 58, is part of the BC leadership Group with the Alzheimer Society of B.C. and he shared his story and personal experience with us. Jim spoke of his journey with humour, acceptance and openness. He told us he is willing to “talk to anyone” in his tireless quest to “advocate to educate”. Clearly, Jim is a rock star for the organization.

Five things to share about dementia:

  1. It is not a natural part of aging.
  2. It is not just about losing your memory – it can affect thinking, communicating and doing everyday activities.
  3. It is possible to live well with dementia.
  4. There is more to a person than a diagnosis of dementia.
  5. The Alzheimer Society of B.C. is here to help.

Some useful myth-busting in the presentation taught us that dementia is not….

  • Strictly a genetic disorder
  • A disease that only affects older people
  • Normal aging/memory loss
  • Preventable
  • Curable
  • Caused by aluminum
  • The end of a meaningful life
  • That a person cannot understand what is going on around them
  • That a person will become violent or aggressive

There is help and there are resources available! You can request a presentation from the Alzheimer Society by emailing dementiafriendlybc@alzheimerbc.org to find out more. You can help spread awareness by encouraging others to become Dementia Friends at www.dementiafriends.ca

The First Link Dementia Helpline is the first number to call for information. The Helpline is at: 1-800-936-6033 or (for the Lower Mainland) 604-681-6530.

The Alzheimer Society of B.C. provides much more valuable information and resources on their website.

I am very grateful to Rebecca and Jim for their excellent presentation and also want to extend my sincere thanks to Berwick House for welcoming us, providing refreshments and such a comfortable space for us to learn about the important work of the Alzheimer Society of B.C.

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