Okanagan man shares his experience for Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

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Okanagan man shares personal experience for Alzheimer’s Awareness Month
WATCH: January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and thousands of people in B.C. are living with the disease. Sydney Morton met with the Alzheimer’s Society of BC to find out what this year's message is – Jan 12, 2023

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease don’t just affect the person who receives the diagnosis. The progressive degenerative diseases affect the entire family and it can be an isolating experience.

January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and Sherry Wezner, the support and education coordinator at the Alzheimer Society of B.C. for the North and Central Okanagan is hoping to break the stigma surrounding the disease that can make it an isolating experience.

“There’s over 85,000 people in B.C. living with dementia,” said Wezner.

“We want people to know that they’re not alone. People who come to our education sessions or are part of our support groups, that’s usually one of the first things that they say: they really feel like they’re not alone in this journey [after attending].”
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To help erase the stigma surrounding dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, Craig Burns, who was diagnosed with dementia in 2016, has come forward to put a face to the disease.

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“I live life well, I don’t live life the way that I used to but… I am standing here, I’ve got my clothes on, I am looking okay,” said Burns.

“Some people have an idea that dementia is maybe in the third stage where you’re in a care home, but it was my late 50s when I first noticed it and now I’m in my 60s and so I like to communicate with people to say no, you can live life well.”

Burns has found ways to build that new life for himself with the support of the Alzheimers Society of B.C. while others find support by hiring in-home care that helps someone who has been diagnosed maintain their independence.

Home Instead has a specialized support program for those living with the disease. Janine Karlsen, the owner and managing director of the Okanagan office says it’s beneficial to have in-home care that helps keep people’s routines as long as possible.

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“It’s a progressive disease as we know and some people will progress faster than others,” said Karlsen.

“Being able to meet the needs that are in that particular family with that particular person can make all the difference in the world.”

Walking through Alzheimer’s disease is a difficult journey, but there is plenty of outside support to make it a little easier.

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