Dementia Caregiver Asks the Community to ReThink DementiaWhen Ottawa resident Rose Ann's husband was diagnosed with dementia three years ago, the change in their lives was confusing and overwhelming.
Nothing can prepare you for what lies ahead," says Rose Ann. "I was exhausted from worry and anticipation of what was next. My husband did not believe there was anything wrong. So it was up to me to get the answers."
The Alzheimer Society was initially Rose Ann's source of information. She accessed helpful education through its First Link® Learning Series, and benefited from a support group especially tailored to wives of people diagnosed with dementia.
But like so many other people dealing with dementia, Rose Ann believes that much more needs to be done to spread information about dementia and to help people to understand it.
"People need to be better informed to improve the quality of life for those with dementia, and their families. We need to make dementia acceptable in the community, not something to hide!" she says passionately. "Let's show the public how they can help, rather than running away from something they don't understand."
That's why Rose Ann is helping as a volunteer advisor with a new dementia awareness program called ReThink Dementia funded by the Champlain Local Health Integration Network (CLHIN) as part of its Integrated Model of Dementia Care. The ReThink Dementia campaign is a project of the Champlain Dementia Network (CDN) being led by the Alzheimer Society of Ottawa and Renfrew County as well as the Alzheimer Society of Cornwall & District.
The CDN is reaching out to all the communities in its catchment area (including Cornwall and District, Ottawa, Renfrew County and parts of Lanark and Leeds Grenville) to build awareness of dementia.
In a 2015 survey of Champlain area households, 87% of respondents said that they are at least somewhat familiar with the disease called dementia, and about 65% understood that dementia is not a normal part of aging. But less than 50% are confident that there is good support in the community for people living with dementia.
The ReThink Dementia campaign is designed to enhance the public's understanding of dementia, and to make it easier for people to get information and support when they are dealing with it. It is also designed to increase awareness of brain health, and prevention.
The ReThink Dementia campaign will make substantial use of the internet and social media to provide information and sources of support for the public. A pivotal part of the campaign is a concise ReThink Dementia website that will help people to easily find the information they need about dementia.
"This is the most effective way for us to spend he limited program resources," says Rose Ann. "This way, we can reach as many people as possible, and measure if we are being successful in getting the message across.
The internet is being used more frequently by more people," she says "and it's an easy way to access a lot of information quickly. The website that we've developed is an excellent search tool for people who need answers to their questions.
Personally, I don't use social media, but our children and grandchildren do. It's imperative that they have easy access to reliable and up-to-date information about this dreadful disease. As we age, the younger generation must take charge.
If dementia can be understood, and talked about as openly as cancer is, that will lead us out of the dark ages," she says. "The ReThink Dementia campaign will help to eliminate myths and misconceptions about the disease and make the world a friendlier place for people who are living with dementia."
Visit www.rethinkdementia.ca or www.demencesonyrepense.ca.