Alzheimer Calgary is on a mission to destigmatize dementia with new campaign
“It’s still me in here.”
That’s the message Alzheimer Calgary is hoping to send with its newly launched campaign.
January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month—a time to recognize the more than 600,000 Canadians living with dementia.
By 2030, that number is expected to double, and only increase further over the following 20 years.
In Calgary and area, the disease currently impacts an estimated 20,000 residents, according to Alzheimer Calgary executive director Barb Ferguson.
“As we see it increase even further into 2050, everybody is going to know somebody with dementia,” she says.
“Chances are somebody close to you will develop dementia at some point in your lifetime. So we really want to kind of shift public perception about what dementia is and attitudes.”
Shifting focus away from loss
When it comes to dementia, Ferguson says there is often a lot of focus on loss.
“Loss of memory and loss of ability and loss of function. We’re trying to shift that into a more positive positioning around what are the strengths that still remain in somebody who has dementia,” Ferguson says.
“We really want people who have a diagnosis who are living with dementia to continue to lead a meaningful life, even after diagnosis. And it’s our belief that is possible.”
Alzheimer Calgary’s new campaign is meant to shift the focus.
“The hope is that our new look inspires the community to treat everyone with compassion and kindness, serving as a reminder that when you encounter a person living with dementia—even if you don’t recognize them at that moment—it’s still them,” Ferguson says.
“Stigma about dementia continues to be a challenge and a barrier; it can mean delayed diagnoses or delays in reaching out for help. The new look is intended to put the focus on humanity and personality by highlighting the ‘me’ in Alzheimer’s.”
Ferguson adds, “Let’s not focus on the disease, let’s focus on the person.”
A lot of life still to live
On average, Ferguson says an individual diagnosed with dementia will live another 10 years.
“There’s still a lot of time to live a life,” she says.
“We’re hopeful that people, after a diagnosis, will continue to pursue all of the things that they enjoy doing.”
Upon receiving a dementia diagnosis, Ferguson suggests seeking out support right away.
“This can make an invaluable difference in the quality of life after a diagnosis and contribute to improved understanding and relationships with loved ones and caregivers,” she says.
Alzheimer Calgary offers holistic programming through a team of dementia support navigators.
“They can help with emotional support, connection to resources, etc.,” Ferguson says.
“Let them be your navigators through this journey.”
Dementia is progressive, and the Alzheimer Calgary team can help families adapt their approach as things evolve.
Ferguson adds the hope is always for families to maintain relationships.
“As dementia progresses, the relationship will change, but you can still have a relationship with somebody with dementia,” she says.
It’s also important to keep an eye out for changes in family members.
“There’s a reason Alzheimer’s Awareness Month is in January,” Ferguson says.
“That’s because people have been together with their families over the holidays and they often notice changes.”
Consultation and research are ongoing, and Dementia Network Calgary is working with Parks Foundation Calgary to try to make the park a reality.
Ferguson says there is a lot of momentum around the idea and she hopes to share some good news about it soon.
“What a wonderful resource and place for families and people with dementia to go, again, to live that meaningful life,” she says.
In the meantime, Dementia Network Calgary and Alzheimer Calgary continue to host a variety of community events to engage with the community.