KAMLOOPS — It's a disease that carries with it quite a stigma.
"When you make a joke about alzheimer's disease you don't allow a person with the disease to be taken seriously," says Tara Hildebrand, Central Interior Support & Education Coordinator, Alzheimer Society of BC.
The Alzheimer Society is working to change that. 'Dementia Friends' this year's national campaign, is aimed at informing the public about what it's like to live with dementia, and dispel any myths that surround the disease.
"I don't ever want somebody with this diagnosis to be seen as less of a person and that happens so frequently and it's terrible. People with alzheimer's disease are living very well in our community, but unsure or scared to share that diagnosis because of the stigma that attaches with it."
Right now in BC, more than 70,000 people are living with alzheimer's disease, several thousand of those are under the age of 65. But the numbers go well beyond this province alone.
"When you look at our country, every 5 minutes there's a new person diagnosed with alzheimer's disease or related dementia."
Unfortunately, it's not known what causes alzheimer's, and there is no cure. Nerve cells in the brain degenerate and eventually die, doctors can only help patients manage the condition. Changes in communication, like mixing up words, and misplacing objects are common early on. But personality and behavioural changes are key signs to look for as well, and can often start out subtle.
"Causing problems with logic, judgement, reasoning, problem solving, ability to sequence events, plan a calendar, those kinds of things."
This year, alzheimer societies across the country are coming together, to raise funds and awareness. For the first time, the annual Alzheimer's Walk in Kamloops, will be held on Sunday May 1st, coinciding with a nation-wide movement.
"It allows those in our community that are facing this terrible disease, to come together with friends and family. For 2015, we raised in our province over $600,000 so it's a very important fundraiser in our province," says Marg Rodgers, Walk for Alzheimer's organizer, Kamloops.
Most often, memory loss is falling victim to the natural aging process. But people who have a family history of alzheimer's or dementia, are at higher risk. So understand the disease, be a 'Dementia Friend' and take simple actions that can help everyone live well.
"Offer a hand, give help if needed, whether it's somebody counting money, or struggling to order off a menu. Have a little bit of patience and empathy and don't make those judgements so quickly," says Hildebrand.
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