Ending the stigma of dementia in Cornwall

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By Nick Seebruch
Ending the stigma of dementia in Cornwall
Alzheimer's Society Cornwall and District Executive Director Shelley Vaillancourt along with Mayor Bernadette Clement and Alzheimer's Society Cornwall and District President George Knezevic hold the Alzheimer's Flag for Alzheimer's Awareness month. Submitted photo.

CORNWALL, Ontario - On Monday, Jan. 6 the Alzheimer's Society raised their flag at City Hall in recognition of Alzheimer's Awareness month. The flag raising is one part of the Alzheimer's Society's nationwide campaign “I live with dementia. Let me help you understand,” a campaign aimed at ending stigma.

According to Health Canada, there were approximately  402,000 cases of seniors living with dementia in 2017 and around 76,000 new cases diagnosed annually. The Alzheimer's Society states however, that one-in-four Canadians would feel embarrassed or ashamed to be diagnosed with some form of dementia.

“Unless you have experienced it firsthand, it can be difficult to appreciate the damage stigma can do to individuals and families facing dementia,” said Shelley Vaillancourt, Alzheimer Society of Cornwall and District. “Too often, negative feelings, attitudes and stereotypes surrounding dementia dissuade people from seeking help and discourage others from lending their support. By providing a platform for Canadians to share their stories, we can cultivate empathy and compassion and help break down the stigma so that Canadians with dementia can live a full life.”

This year as a part of their nationwide campaign, the Alzheimer's Society is seeking to highlight that not only do they support those with dementia, but that it can come in many forms.

“When did it become a crime to forget something,” said Manitoba resident Tanis, a former nurse living with vascular dementia. “I want to get the word out that it’s nothing to be ashamed of, let’s get rid of that stigma so that people can talk about dementia and get the help they need.”

Mayor Bernadette Clement applauded the efforts and training that the Alzheimer's Society has offered in Cornwall to break down barriers for those living with dementia and in ending stigma surrounding the condition.

“I'm very proud of the fact that the city has worked with the Alzheimer's Society so we can become a better dementia friendly community,” said Clement.

S/ Sgt. George Knezevic of the Cornwall Police Service (CPS) is also the long time president of the Cornwall Chapter of the Alzheimer's Society. He said that he has taken the dementia friendly training offered by the Alzheimer's Society and so has some of his fellow officers in the CPS.

Knezevic highlighted the CPS' implementation of a Vulnerable Person Registry where residents can go online and register themselves or a loved one so that the CPS can better understand their needs in case of an emergency.

For more information on the Alzheimer's Society Cornwall and District and the resources and training they offer, please visit their website.

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