Windsor

Windsor-Essex Alzheimer Society aims to end stigma during awareness month

The Alzheimer Society of Windsor-Essex is participating in a month-long awareness campaign called "I live with dementia. Let me help you understand" — aimed at starting conversations and encouraging Canadians to see the disease in a different way.

15 per cent of people living with dementia are under the age of 65

The Alzheimer Society of Windsor-Essex is taking part in an awareness campaign aimed at starting conversations and encouraging Canadians to see the disease in a different way. (Alzheimer Society of Windsor-Essex)

There are people in Windsor-Essex raising children and going to work each day while dealing with Alzheimer's.

In fact, 15 per cent of people living with the disease or various dementia are under the age of 65, contradicting the idea it's something only seniors struggle with, according to Alzheimer Society of Windsor-Essex CEO Sally Bennett Olczak.

For the next month, the society will be taking on the various stigmas that Olczak said "negatively impact daily life."

"Many people with dementia are feeling socially excluded, they're feeling discriminated against at times," she explained.

People with dementia share their experience

The society is participating in an awareness campaign called "I live with dementia. Let me help you understand" — aimed at starting conversations and encouraging Canadians to see the disease in a different way.

It includes people with dementia sharing their stories and includes a website with tips for being more dementia-friendly.

"We want to go forward and treat each day as a blessing with the changes that come with dementia," Olczak added. "People should be treated with respect and dignity."

Alzhemier Society of Windsor Essex CEO Sally Bennett Olczak said negative stigma hurts people living with dementia.

A new survey released Monday questioned 1,500 Canadians between the ages of 18 and 65 about Alzheimer's and revealed 46 per cent of respondents said they would feel ashamed or embarrassed if they had dementia, while 61 per cent believed they would face discrimination of some kind.

"The findings underscore the work we must still do to end stigma once and for all," said Olczak. "We can't let negative perceptions stand in the way of people with dementia seeking help and support."

The CEO said the disease affects an estimated 7,500 people in Windsor-Essex. At age 65 one in 13 people have dementia, that rate jumps to 50 per cent by age 85.

People living with dementia share their stories as part of the month-long campaign. (Alzheimer Society of Windsor-Essex)

But Olczak said people can take steps to make getting the disease less likely.

"Sleep well, eat a healthy diet, keep socially engaged and keep physically active as you're able," she said. "That doesn't mean running a marathon for your 100th birthday, if you can do that wonderful for your, but going for a walk, parking at the back of the parking lot … all of those things add up."

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