The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the lives of the estimated 70,000 British Columbians living with dementia in B.C., says Laurie DeCroos, a Support & Education Coordinator for the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s Northern Interior, Skeena and Peace Resource Centre.
“The isolation they face has highlighted why we need to start taking real action in changing the future of people affected by the disease,” she said.
Changing the future is the theme for Alzheimer’s Awareness Month this year Throughout the month, people across the province are sharing their experiences and hopes for the future: people like Granville Johnson, who is living with vascular dementia in Sinclair Mills some 90km east of Prince George.
He was initially diagnosed in 2016 and sees addressing stigma and raising the profile of dementia as important first steps in changing the future for people on the dementia journey. He’s found that it is often up to people living with the disease to advocate for themselves in order to help people understand and address the stigma.
“Dementia makes you a teacher – you have to teach other people as much as you have to learn,” he says.
An accomplished musician and storyteller, Johnson is turning to creative outlets to help get his message across, working on an album of songs inspired and informed by his experiences with dementia – and more recently, by the impact of COVID-19. He’s working on the album with a whole band of other musicians virtually, passing songs from one person to the next, developing them through improvisation.
“So many people are dealing with dementia, but society is still in denial,” he says. “I wish there was something that we could bottle and give to other people to help them understand.”
Johnson is are just one of the many British Columbians sharing their stories in hopes of galvanizing a broad community of care to help the Alzheimer Society of B.C. achieve its vision of a dementia-friendly province, where people affected by dementia are acknowledged, supported and included.
“Individual gestures of support – the ripples – create the groundswell that is needed to help us reach that future. Everyone has a role to play,” says DeCroos. “We’re asking people to celebrate Alzheimer’s Awareness Month by staying connected to people in their lives who are affected by the disease, raising their voices to advocate, and investing in our cause.”
As part of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, residents are invited to a special webinar sponsored by Clark Wilson LLP entitled, “Raise your voice: Dementia, long-term care and COVID-19,” on January 27. The webinar will feature a panel of experts and people with lived experience discussing the challenge of balancing health and safety concerns with ensuring that families can support people living with dementia in long-term care to stay active and engaged.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on a problem that advocates and support persons were keenly aware of prior to the emergence of this global health crisis: individuals with dementia are too often silenced, and their needs too casually overlooked. It is important to remember that these individuals have much to share, both with respect to directing their own care and contributing to society at large,” says Emily Clough from Clark Wilson LLP, who is moderating the panel. “We owe our elders, and those closest to them, a duty to listen, and to respect their dignity and autonomy. Together we can create a safer, more inclusive future for individuals and families coping with dementia.”
To learn more about how you can help change the future for people living with dementia, visit alzbc.org/future.
Raise your voice: Dementia, long-term care and COVID-19
Date: January 27, 2021
Time: 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Accessibility: ASL and closed captioning will be available.
Registration: Visit alzbc.org/future