Myrna Norman cried at first when her doctor told her she had frontotemporal dementia and about eight years to live.
She was told to get her affairs in order – 13 years ago.
Instead, Norman contacted the Alzheimer Society of British Columbia and rather than preparing for death, the current community advocate for people living with dementia, began preparing to live.
Norman now runs the Purple Angels Memory Cafe – a support group in the community that provides information, resources, and social connections for anyone with a dementia diagnosis and their caregivers – and it is this group that will be honoured by the local Dementia Friendly Community Task Group at this years IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer’s or Walk in a Box.
This will be the fourth annual community walk in support of the Alzheimer Society of British Columbia – it was cancelled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the group did manage a virtual walk through downtown Maple Ridge and at South Bonson Landing in 2021 and raised more than $3,000 for the society – to help end the stigma of Alzheimer’s and to increase support for people living with dementia, and educate the public about the disease.
The Dementia Friendly Community Task Group is made up of people living with dementia and others with lived experience of the disease including: academics, caregivers, healthcare workers, seniors, and representatives from senior-serving agencies and businesses.
“I work, while living with a brain disorder, to stop the stigma,” explained Norman, who in addition to being a dementia advocate, is also a member of the task group. “Stigma can interfere so immensely that we begin to withdraw from our own communities and even our own families,” she said.
The task group notes that more than 1,000 people have received a dementia diagnosis between the cities of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows. And, while some people live in assisted living residences or long-term care homes, more than 60 per cent continue to live in their own homes in the community. However, members of the group are concerned, these people and their families can become increasingly isolated due to the stigma surrounding the disease.
“We are participating in the Walk this year because dementia is the fastest growing healthcare issue of our time. As more and more people are impacted there is an increasing demand for Alzheimer Society programs and services. Services that make all the difference in the way that people are able to manage the disease and live life to the fullest,” said the group on the IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer’s website.
Norman wants to encourage those diagnosed with dementia that their lives are not over.
“When someone receives a dementia diagnosis, they often fear that’s it! My life is over! I’m here to tell you there can still be a lot of living to do, good memories to make for the individual and their family and friends,” added Norman.
The Dementia Friendly Community Task Group of the Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows and Katzie, Seniors Network will be hosting the Walk in a Box for Alzheimer’s from 10-12 p.m. on Saturday, May 28, at 11985 Harris Rd. in Pitt Meadows.
All money raised from the event will go to support local programs of the Alzheimer Society of B.C..
To donate go to alzgiving.ca/goto/Seniors_Network. Donations can also be made in person on the day of the walk.
For more information about the Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, and Katzie, Seniors Network go to seniors-network.ca.
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