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Practical Insights for Busy Caregivers

Dementia Friends – Raising Awareness and Offering Support

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February 8, 2016, by Hannele Kivinen, Caregiver Exchange

Dementia Friends Canada home page Caregivers who have supported someone living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia know firsthand how lonely and alienating the experience can be. Friends and even family members feel awkward and unsure of themselves; they don’t know what to say or how to help, so they stop visiting altogether. Social isolation is one of the biggest challenges for caregivers faced with dementia.
 
Although 3 out of every 4 Canadians know someone living with dementia, there’s a lack of understanding about what it’s like to live with the disease. That’s why the Government of Canada partnered with the Alzheimer Society of Canada to launch Dementia Friends, a national awareness and public engagement initiative. Explains Program Officer Laura Berljawsky, “the aim of Dementia Friends is to create a more aware and informed Canadian population by dispelling the myths and reducing stigma around dementia.”
 
Dementia Friends asks people to learn more about dementia, by visiting their website and watching a short but powerful video that describes the symptoms of dementia, such as memory loss, confusion, behavioral changes, and trouble speaking. It also explains how to approach someone with dementia, by speaking slowly and calmly and maintaining eye contact.
 
After watching the video, you are invited to register your details and commit to an action. These actions involve a range of involvement, and could be as simple as promoting Dementia Friends on social media, or supporting someone you know with dementia by checking in with them regularly by phone or in person. Caregivers who have experience looking after someone with dementia might want to take things a step further, by speaking at a community event about their experience. Dementia Friends are also encouraged to make up their own actions.
 
If you’d like to take on a bigger role, you can choose to become a Dementia Friends Ambassador by setting a goal for the number of friends you’d like to reach. Dementia Friends also has a workplace program and offers a toolkit that includes posters, ready-to-use emails, and fun workplace challenges.
 
“It’s our mission to spread the word about dementia in any way we can and make the world a more inclusive and more supportive place for people impacted,” says Berljawsky. And of course, that includes caregivers, too. “By engaging Canadians to better understand what dementia is, Dementia Friends ultimately gives caregivers a stronger support system. People will feel more confident being around someone with dementia if they know more about the disease.”
 
To become a Dementia Friend and start raising awareness, visit DementiaFriends.ca today. You can also connect with Dementia Friends on Twitter and Facebook.