Reducing the stigma associated with Alzheimer's and dementia

By Tanya Cronin
January 18, 2018 - 12:22pm Updated: January 18, 2018 - 1:42pm

KAMLOOPS — January is Alzheimer's Awareness Month, a time to shine a light on a disease that's impacting so many lives. The most recent statistics show that almost 750,000 Canadians are living with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementias, and those numbers continue to rise. This year, the Alzheimer Society is working to remove the stigma associated with the disease, trying to get people to understand that dementia is no longer an 'old person's disease'. 

Corrina Lovell grows emotional when talking about her mother's recent diagnosis with Alzheimer's disease.

"It can be a scary journey and some of the changes we see, it's hard to make sense of them," says Lovell.

Two years ago at the age of 58, Corrina's mother received the news she had Alzheimer's and Frontotemporal Dementia. Both incurable, and both a heartbreaking reality for the family.

"She's a little bit more agitated, she says things she never used to say before, that catches me off guard, she gets really tired a lot."

The signs were there, but like so often went unnoticed at first. It wasn't until Corrina's mother's personality started to change and she would call repeatedly to tell the same story, that the family started putting the pieces together.

"We were thinking maybe she's stressed or maybe it was a medication complication or things like that, so once we ruled out those things and got a definitive diagnosis and look back, things made a lot of sense."

Alzheimer's disease is a disorder in which nerve cells in the brain degenerate and eventually die. There is no cure, doctors can only help patients manage the condition. Right now in BC, an estimated 70,000 people are living with the disease, many under the age of 65. The disease much more profound than just misplacing objects.  

"There is memory loss associated with this disease of course, but there's also loss of brain function and the brain isn't working like it used to, and it's going to cause changes in personality, changes with memory logic and judgement and reasoning and everything is affected," says Tara Hildebrand, Alzheimer Society of BC, Central Interior.

The Alzheimer's Society connects patients and their caregivers to support services and information at any stage of their journey.

"We have a website and we encourage people to have a look, it's not just the person with the diagnosis that lives with the disease, it's the entire family and friends that live with this disease and the community as as whole," says Hildebrand.

For Corrina Lovell the disease runs deep, 6 people in her family have died of Alzheimer's, including her grandfather just last year. She's thankful for the support of the Alzheimer's Society, which she says has helped her keep a positive outlook and make the most of the time she has left with her mother.

"It allows us to plan more effectively so my mom can have a fulfilled life and I think that's really important, just because they have this disease doesn't mean they can't live well, in fact they can," says Lovell. 

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