“I live with dementia…in North Vancouver. Let me help you understand.”
Canadians affected by dementia are going public for a third consecutive year in an effort to change hearts and minds. People living with the disease, their caregivers and family members are courageously stepping forward with their personal stories in the Alzheimer Society’s nation-wide campaign, I live with dementia. Let me help you understand as part of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.
“Between the two of us, she was always the navigator when we travelled,” North Vancouver resident Allan Maynard says when talking about his wife Margrit, who is living with dementia. Allan and Margrit first noticed changes they would come to realize were symptoms while they were travelling in France in 2012. “I noticed she’d stopped reading, stopped updating the trip diary, was having trouble getting oriented.”
Margrit – who was a schoolteacher and was well loved for her use of art to help her students learn – stopped painting and began to experience memory issues. They went to the doctor and initially she was diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) – although it was clearly something more. With some prompting from their son and daughter, Allan and Margrit went to the memory clinic at Vancouver General Hospital and received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in 2013. Margrit had to retire from teaching.
At first, Allan was afraid of what the diagnosis meant. “I didn’t know how we were going to handle it or what it would mean, exactly,” he says. Margrit’s mother had also lived with dementia and Margrit was in denial about her own diagnosis. “I learned to say that it was just a memory problem to avoid upsetting her.”
Initially, Allan avoided talking about the disease, but people started to notice changes in Margrit – and since he’s become more open about it, people have reached out to share their own experiences. His daughter Jill convinced him to connect with the Alzheimer Society of B.C. and since then he’s started to come to terms with things. “I’ve heard from a lot of people who say that they’re dealing with it too – I tell them to call the Society.”
When asked what he would tell someone who has just been diagnosed with dementia or is close to someone else who has, he says, “It’s important to have a good circle of friends and be honest about the situation.”
Want to learn more?
Read the stories of more B.C. individuals and families who are affected by dementia and help us change the conversation!