“I live with dementia…in the West Kootenays. 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.

Dawn and Stephen sit next to each other on a porch.

“I think I might have shed a tear,” says Dawn Sutcliffe of Riondel, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 60. Having seen her father’s dementia journey, she knew some of what to expect.

The diagnosis surprised Dawn’s long-time friend and Nelson resident Stephen Fraser, though. They’d thought for years that Dawn’s challenges may have been the result of brain trauma or severe ADHD. Having been a talented artist for many years, Dawn has struggled with the disease as her abilities have changed and she has found employment increasingly difficult. Her diagnosis clarified the situation.

Since Dawn’s diagnosis, the friends have sought out support from the Alzheimer Society of B.C. and been very forthcoming with the people around them. They’ve found many people they know have a personal connection of their own. “The conversations I’ve had with people after the fact have been fabulous. I’ve been able to reconnect with old friends because of it,” Dawn says.

Stephen says that while young onset dementia is often seen as more aggressive, everybody is different and that Dawn is ultimately still Dawn. “She has no self-pity and has become very conscious of the moment. It’s been impressive to watch her deal with the situation,” he says.

“A lot of people want to hide when they get the diagnosis,” Dawn says. “But while there are people I don’t think I’m ready to tell, I definitely think it’s easier to open up and stay connected to your friends.”

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!

Last Updated: 01/08/2020