A display of paintings is serving as a more unique approach to raising awareness about Alzheimer’s disease after its opening reception last Friday.
The Centre for Creative Arts is presenting “Golden Moments: A Journey through Alzheimer’s” until the end of the month in association with the Alberta and Northwest Territories branch of the Alzheimer’s Society. The paintings were created by Bernice Kathleen, who lives with dementia.
Kathleen’s daughter, Teresa Pardy, attended the event in her mother’s place. Pardy said the display showcases two decades of Kathleen’s work.
“It’s been about four years since mom actually had an official diagnosis of dementia,” said Pardy.
“She’s been in care for about two years.”
Pardy added that her mother’s diagnosis has drawn the family closer together than ever.
“I have gotten to know my mother so much better since she’s had dementia because her inner soul has come to the surface and I’m getting to hear stories I’ve never heard before, so that’s a real treasure,” she said.
Michele Moulder, the CEO of the Alzheimer’s Society of Alberta and the Northwest Territories, said the event was held to celebrate Kathleen’s work and reduce the stigma associated with dementia.
The month of January was first declared as Alzheimer’s Awareness Month to further the anti-stigma campaign annually with 2019 marking its third year.
According to Moulder, the society launched a national survey at the beginning of the campaign, which reported that one in four Canadians would feel ashamed and embarrassed to let other people know they had a diagnosis of dementia.
“We kind of want to punch stigma in the nose like all of the nasty Alzheimer’s jokes and how people think about people with dementia as being not themselves and not able to contribute (to society),” said Moulder.
“It’s kind of natural for the public to think, end of life, end of the disease stage, in a care home, unable to look after themselves, but that’s really not what dementia is about.”
Moulder said a lot of the stigma surrounding the disease stems from a lack of knowledge and understanding of what dementia is and asked for people to learn more about it.
The Alzheimer’s Society will be launching another national survey later this year to begin tracking the progress of their campaign and gauge some of the impacts incurred so far.
There are currently an estimated 46,000 people in Alberta and an estimated 564,000 people in Canada living with a dementia diagnosis.
“I think where some of the stigma comes from is our older generations because they were kind of hidden away if they had Alzheimer’s or dementia or any type of difference,” said Carol-Ann Clarke, an event ambassador for Alzheimer’s Awareness who lives with dementia.
“It’s not a mental illness. It’s a cognitive impairment and loss of memory. It’s a downward spiral.”
Clarke advised those who may have a family member or loved one living with dementia not to argue with them, but rather suggest something else, divert their attention or agree with them.
“Do not confuse a situation. Diffuse as much as you can and be kind. They’re normal people. They have just lost some of their functions.”
Those interested in learning more about dementia can visit www.alzheimers.ab.ca