Before reading this page, we encourage you to learn about the different forms that stigma against dementia can take.
Did you know that January is Alzheimer's Awareness Month in Canada? During this month, we at the Society encourage organizations across Canada, and individuals like you, to learn more about dementia and its stark impact on Canadians.
1. Learn the facts about dementia
Talking about dementia lessens our fear and increases understanding. The Alzheimer Society has many resources, both online and in print, that you can use to learn more about dementia.
Once you've learned more about dementia, share your knowledge with others. If you hear something about dementia that is false or misleading, don't be afraid to challenge it.
2. Don’t make assumptions
Dementia is a progressive disease and affects each person differently. A diagnosis doesn’t mean the person will have to stop their daily routine or give up working right away.
If someone says they have been diagnosed with dementia, take them at their word. Even if a person doesn't seem "old" enough, they may have young onset dementia.
If you have a question about dementia, talk to us:
- Your local Society can provide answers and direct you to more resources in your community.
- You can also send your questions to the Alzheimer Society of Canada at [email protected].
3. Use person-centred language
We don’t tolerate racial jokes or jokes about other diseases such as cancer. Yet dementia jokes are common. Don't punch down on people living with dementia by making jokes at their expense.
For a person to live well with dementia, it's important to reinforce their dignity, independence and personhood. Using person-centred language can help you focus on those principles when talking about dementia and the people who live with it.
4. Be a friend
People living with dementia don’t want to lose their friends nor do they want to stop doing the activities they enjoy.
Be supportive. Stay in touch and connected. Social activity helps slow the progression of the disease and lets people with dementia know you care.
5. Hear from the people who experience stigma
The Alzheimer Society works to raise awareness of the realities of dementia, and fight the effects of stigma. However, there is perhaps no better way to know what stigma is than to listen to the people who have experienced it firsthand.
Visit ilivewithdementia.ca to read the stories of people living with dementia, families and caregivers. Let them help you understand what it's like to live with dementia and face stigma.
6. Test your attitude
Take our quiz on misinformation and stereotypes about dementia. It offers six scenarios that involve dementia, and asks how you would handle each situation.
It only takes five to ten minutes. There are no right or wrong answers, but your responses may surprise you!
7. Encourage early diagnosis
People with dementia can live meaningful and productive lives for many years after an early diagnosis. Dementia diagnosed early helps both the person and family members to learn about the disease, set realistic expectations and plan for their future together.
By encouraging early diagnosis, you can help eliminate the stigma around dementia.
8. Support the caregiver
Caregivers need support, too. Knowing more about what they go through is a good start – most caregivers wish that more people understood the realities of caring for someone living with dementia.
If you know someone who is caring for a person living with dementia, it's important that you show understanding and offer help. They will appreciate it.
9. Stay informed
Follow the Alzheimer Society of Canada on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to get the latest news about dementia and the stories of people who live well with the disease. Sharing these stories can increase awareness of dementia among the people in your social networks.
We also encourage you to support our campaigns that raise awareness of the many issues that surround dementia in Canada. Initiatives like the Canadian Charter of Rights for People with Dementia, Dementia-Friendly Canada and Canada's national dementia strategy all strive to reduce stigma against people living with dementia, families and caregivers in Canada.
10. Remember the person inside
Above all, it's important to remember that people living with dementia are still people. Dementia does not change that.
What is always constant is that there are still lives to be lived, dreams to pursue and people to love.
If you have a friend or family member diagnosed with dementia, know that feelings of loss and grief are normal, and will likely grow more intense as the disease progresses.
However, it's possible for the person to live well with dementia, and maintain their quality of life for as long as possible. And you can help that person live well, too.
More useful links and resources
2017 Awareness survey executive summary. Alzheimer Society of Canada, 2017. We surveyed over 1,500 Canadians to measure their attitudes and perceptions of Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Read the results.
ilivewithdementia.ca. Alzheimer Society, 2020. Part of Alzheimer's Awareness Month, this microsite lets you read the stories of people living with dementia, families and caregivers. You can also learn more about stigma and find the closest Alzheimer Society to you.
Dementia in New Light: A Digital Learning Experience. 2022. This digital learning experience was developed by the research team of Dr. Pia Kontos, Dr. Sherry Dupuis, Dr. Gail J. Mitchell and Dr. Christine Jonas-Simpson. It is a free, interactive educational tool about stigma associated with dementia and how this can be challenged to support people to live well with dementia.