'I'm still me': Campaign aims to address challenges and stigma of Alzheimer's on P.E.I.

Sept. 21 marks the seventh annual World Alzheimer's Day. This year, a new campaign called Let's Talk Memory was launched to encourage Islanders to share their stories on social media using the hashtag #LetsTalkMemory.

'There's a real lack of education and we need to get the word out there to people'

Lynn Loftus volunteered for 30 years with the Alzheimer's Society of P.E.I. before being diagnosed with the disease herself. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

Lynn Loftus spoke confidently about her diagnosis with Alzheimer's disease to the crowd gathered for the launch of P.E.I.'s new awareness campaign called Let's Talk Memory. 

"There's a real lack of education and we need to get the word out there to people," she said.

"I'm still me. I'm still here, I still like to laugh and I can still function." 

The campaign is to address the stigma around Alzheimer's disease and raise awareness of the early signs.

The announcement coincided with World Alzheimer's Day and is part of the Seniors Action Plan the provincial government committed to earlier this year. 

'Think about their brain health'

"When many people think of Alzheimer's disease, they associate it to memory loss, but it's so much more than that," said Corrine Hendricken-Eldershaw, CEO of the Alzheimer's Society of P.E.I.

She hopes the new campaign addresses this. 

"Let's Talk Memory ... is to invite Islanders to think about their brain health, have conversations with loved ones, and better understand Alzheimer's disease is memory loss and much more," she said. 

Early warning signs include memory loss, problems with language and changes in mood and behaviour.

Corrine Hendricken-Eldershaw, CEO of Alzheimer's Society of P.E.I. spoke during the announcement of the Let's Talk Memory campaign. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

​Hendricken-Eldershaw said many people don't treat Alzheimer's like other diseases such as cancer or physical ailments. 

"When you have a disease of your brain called dementia, people are just not so sure what to do with that. The person being diagnosed isn't sure. The family, the friends, the community.... It really multiplies that stigma so much." 

'I'm blessed'

Let's Talk Memory will include a social media campaign to encourage others to talk about all forms of dementia including Alzheimer's disease.

Health PEI says that more than 2,500 people on the Island are affected by Alzheimer's disease, most over the age of 65.

"Research tells us, if you're connected to information and support early, it'll delay the placement to a long-tem care facility, it will delay lots of issues that may happen down the road," Hendricken-Eldershaw said.

Corrine Hendricken-Eldershaw with the Alzheimer's Society of P.E.I. says the the new awareness campaign was a good way to get Islanders to better understand the disease. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

Loftus said her husband Brian is an example of why understanding makes all the difference. 

She recalls a day when she went shopping for two and a half hours while he waited patiently in the car.

"When I come out, he said 'that's alright,'" Loftus said. "A man like that or any human is rare. To have patience and understanding. I'm blessed to have that in my life."

Loftus actively shares her story with others to address the stigma that she has seen herself.

The campaign will supply information to schools and healthcare providers — all to try and make P.E.I. an easier place to live for people with forms of dementia.

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With files from Isabella Zavarise