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On Community: Making memories matter

Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows-Katzie group reducing stigma and creating more compassion around dementia.
Myrna Norman is an ambassador for Purple Angels, a dementia support group. (Contributed)

Reducing stigma and creating a more compassionate community is a priority for the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows-Katzie, Seniors Network.

Facing stigma is often of great concern for people living with dementia. Stigma around dementia exists, in part, due to a lack of awareness or understanding of the condition.

Dementia affects approximately 62,000 British Columbians and, by 2024, the number is expected to climb to 87,000, according to Ministry of Health data.

In Maple Ridge, the number of individuals diagnosed with dementia doubled between 2005 and 2015.

Approximately 60 per cent of individuals with dementia continue to live in the community, either independently or with care partners.

With support from the City of Maple Ridge, the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows-Katzie, Seniors Network is developing a plan to make Maple Ridge a “dementia-friendly community,” where residents living with dementia, their families and caregivers feel supported, connected, comfortable and safe.

When Myrna Norman, a seniors network member, was diagnosed with frontal lobe dementia, her doctor advised her to go home and get her affairs in order.

But nine years later, Myrna is a real community champion and advocate for those living with dementia. Myrna is proof that you don’t have to hide away and that you can live well with dementia.

There is a need to change this public misconception. Myrna has been trying to do so as an ambassador for Purple Angels, a dementia support group. It hosts support groups and provides training for those living with or interested in dementia.

Next month, Myrna will be representing the voices of those living with dementia at the Public Health Agency of Canada National Dementia Strategy forum in Ottawa.

Raising awareness and combating stigma are just a few of the reasons the Alzheimer Society of B.C. is spreading a dementia-friendly communities initiative throughout the province.

In November 2017, the Alzheimer’s Society surveyed 1,506 Canadians and found that people living with dementia experience far more stigma than individuals with physical health conditions.

The society’s results showed that 58 per cent of respondents felt that people living with dementia may be ignored or dismissed, while 54 per cent believe they may be socially rejected or avoided, and 50 per cent believe that they may be physically or verbally abused.

It takes a lot of courage to face this type of stigma, but according to Myrna: “The more involved you are outside your home, the better off you will be.”

The Seniors Network is launching its dementia-friendly community initiative with a Walk for Alzheimer’s: Make Memories Matter, in Memorial Peace Park, May 12, from 10 a.m. to noon.

Please join the Seniors Network and CEED Centre as we walk for memories. Make a difference in the lives of people in Maple Ridge affected by dementia.

By Brenna Ayliffe, a community health specialist with Fraser Health Authourity.