January is Alzheimer’s Awareness month in Canada. It’s the perfect time to reflect on the results of a recent survey conducted by Dementia Network Calgary, which revealed that the vast majority of all respondents feel people living with dementia are stigmatized and isolated. The survey found 18 per cent of all respondents would hide a dementia diagnosis. These survey results echo similar findings from a 2017 survey by Alzheimer Society of Canada, which found 1 in 5 people would avoid seeking help for as long as possible, if they thought they had dementia.
Stigma and a lack of public awareness result in fear, shame and social isolation for people impacted by dementia, and can also affect the care they receive. As our population ages and dementia prevalence increases, it will be impossible to provide enough long-term spaces to meet demand, and most people living with dementia will remain in community. At the same time, there is a projected global health-care workforce shortage. To address this widening gap, we must build community capacity so family, friends and neighbours understand how they can help people impacted by dementia live as well as possible. One potential solution is small-scale care, embedded in community. Read Small Cooperative Living to learn more.
Awareness is key to understanding how to reduce the risks of developing dementia. Read Food for Thought to learn about the link between brain health and what we eat.
Awareness will also be improved by more research. Alzheimer Disease International (ADI) urges that at least one per cent of the overall global cost of dementia should be spent on research. Currently, Canada lags behind other countries in research funding. Read Alzheimer’s Disease International & Dementia Alliance International for more information about ADI.
More than 17,000 people live with dementia in Calgary, and eight new people are diagnosed every day. By reducing stigma, raising awareness and advocating to fully implement both the Alberta Dementia Strategy and Action Plan and the national plan, A Dementia Strategy for Canada: Together We Aspire, we can make Calgary a supportive, innovative environment where people impacted by dementia live well. [ ]