January 18, 2018 5:42 pm
Updated: January 18, 2018 6:23 pm

Awareness of dementia is rising, even as the stigma remains

WATCH: The Alzheimer Society of New Brunswick says while awareness surrounding the disease and other dementias has increased – negative stigma remains. A new poll shows nearly half of Canadians would feel embarrassed if diagnosed with the illness. Jeremy Keefe has more.

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A new survey shows many Canadians still hold a negative view of Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias. Organizations that offer support hope this changes as awareness of the conditions increase.

According to the survey, 46 per cent of the 1,500 people said they would feel embarrassed or ashamed if they had a form of dementia.

What’s more, 61 per cent said they’d expect to face discrimination if they did.

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“When you talk to people about the disease they fear most, Alzheimer’s tops the list,” said Chandra MacBean, executive director for the Alzheimer Society of New Brunswick.

“It is a feared illness,” she said.

READ MORE: ‘You need that support’: Alzheimer’s caregivers in N.B. say they can’t do it alone

One in four respondents believe family and friends would begin ignoring them if they were diagnosed with dementia, while only five per cent indicated they would learn more about dementia if a family member received a diagnosis.

Alzheimer Awareness Month is held every January across the country.

This year, organizations are pushing to eradicate the negative stigma surrounding dementia and get people talking about what it means to live with the illness.

“A diagnosis of dementia is not a diagnosis that stops joy. It doesn’t stop you from being the person you were,” MacBean said.

“It changes the way you may interact and interface with individuals and your surroundings, but it certainly doesn’t stop you from enjoying life.”

Many caregivers report that some family members and friends withdraw from a loved one’s life after symptoms become present. That’s the sad reality of a disease that often robs victims of memories, motor skills and other functions. Friendships can also become a casualty.

MacBean said narrowing down reasons why this happens isn’t an easy task. Often, a lack of understanding on how to proceed or help contributes to the trend.

“We’ve heard from people who say, ‘I want to help, but I just don’t know what to say,'” she said. “What we’re really trying to communicate this month is that you can treat a person with dementia the same way you always did. You may approach them a little bit differently. It helps to know a little bit about the disease, but they’re the same person they always were. They’re just dealing with this chronic condition.”

WATCH: Alzheimer’s Awareness in Canada

MacBean indicated those who might refrain from continuing a relationship with someone with dementia may do so because they believe it requires a major commitment, when in reality a small gesture is oftentimes all it takes to show you care.

“Sometimes it just involves patience,” she explained.

The survey included 1,500 Canadians between the ages of 18-65.

Anyone interested in learning more about Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia is encouraged to look up a local Alzheimer Society online or phone.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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