Many Sooke residents are this month making one of their most important New Year’s resolutions ever.
They’re becoming Dementia Friends, committing to learning a little bit about dementia so they can be supportive and inclusive toward people with the illness, which has become one of the country’s most pressing health issues.
Statistics suggest three out of four area residents know someone living with dementia.
“People affected by dementia continue to live in and be a part of our communities, and we can support them to stay connected in ways that are meaningful for them,” says Emily Pridham, the manager of regional services for Vancouver Island for the Alzheimer Society of B.C.
“Through individual actions we can raise awareness of dementia and reduce the stigma attached to it.”
The Dementia Friend campaign is the cornerstone of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, which runs until the end of January.
Becoming a Dementia Friend is easy, says Pridham. The process starts by signing up at DementiaFriends.ca. The next step is to understand five simple things about dementia:
• It is not a natural part of aging.
• It is not just about losing your memory. Dementia can affect thinking, communicating and doing everyday activities.
• It is possible to live well with dementia.
• There is more to a person than a diagnosis of dementia.
The Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s Greater Victoria branch helps people with dementia and their care partners.
That knowledge can easily translate into action at home and work, Pridham adds.
The society has supported people living with dementia for 35 years. One of its initiatives, First Link, connects people affected by dementia with information, society support services and programs such as Minds in Motion, and dementia education sessions.
Sooke residents can find out about upcoming education sessions by visiting www.alzheimerbc.org or contacting the Greater Victoria Alzheimer Resource Centre at 250-382-2052.
Here are some tips to help you when you are connecting with a person living with dementia:
• Patience is key for dementia-friendliness.
• Use respectful language. People living with dementia are not “sufferers” or “patients.”
• Address the person with dementia, rather than those around them, when talking about their experience living with the disease.
• Connect, don’t correct. Respond to feelings being shared.
• Use precise language when describing actions or tasks.
• Give directions slowly and clearly.
• Focus on a person’s strengths and share tasks with them, like washing dishes or helping them to order at a coffee shop or restaurant.
• Become educated on dementia and on how to help, by visiting www.alzheimerbc.org.