A national awareness campaign on Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia began Jan. 8 and lasts for the entire month. The theme, “Yes, I live with dementia, let me help you understand,” reminds us that a person with dementia is someone who is still a full member of society. People are not defined by their disease.  They are the same person before and after being diagnosed. They are human beings who need human contact, compassion and friendship, and treated with dignity and respect.

Despite greater awareness among the general public of Alzheimer’s disease, stigmatization and discrimination continue to be the biggest obstacles faced by persons with neurodegenerative diseases and their families. People living with dementia sometimes feel excluded or treated differently because of their disease.

Negative reactions from friends, family members and professionals can have an impact on a person’s well-being and their capacity to manage the changes that Alzheimer’s brings. Life goes on after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is received, and it is possible to maintain quality of life while living with the disease. With adequate assistance and support, people living with Alzheimer’s can continue to do the things they love and remain active in their community for many years.

“For six years, I was the caregiver for my father, who had Alzheimer’s and died last May,” said Sabrina Lacoste, national campaign ambassador. “Taking care of him transformed my life as a young adult. I became a better person. But when talking to people about him, I realized how important it is to continue our effort to create awareness of the disease. And above all, to demystify it.

“We have to be help people be more open-minded if we are to eliminate the negative prejudices and find ways of living each day in a positive way with a disease that will be affecting increasing numbers of people in the years to come.”

The campaign invites all those directly or indirectly affected by Alzheimer’s disease to open the debate and start discussions, so that from now on, the disease is seen differently. It is time to transform judgment into compassion and assumptions into understanding.

Visit ilivewithdementia.ca for more information.