Stigma. What should be a general understanding and acceptance regarding Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias is, in reality, not that way at all. To help point a spotlight on this troubling misunderstanding, the Alzheimer Society has launched a social media campaign called #StillHere. The theme of this nation-wide campaign focuses on dispelling one of the many enduring myths of this disease by illustrating that life does not end when Alzheimer’s begins. The #StillHere campaign, launched this month, presents a sharp two-word rebuke to the negative attitude that many people with dementia feel is targeted towards them and brings with it much needed attention to those people living with the disease. The #StillHere message is seen from the perspective of a person living with dementia that says: "I may have a disease and my brain may not function as well as it used to, but I am still the same person I was before the disease. This is a huge challenge for me and my family; it can be at times heartbreaking but my essence, my feelings, my being, is still here. Please don't be afraid of me or my disease."
As Dr. Pia Kontos, a senior scientist at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute at the University Health Network stated “People living with dementia are among the most stigmatized groups in society because of assumptions about losing dignity and the ability to express yourself”.
According to a Nanos survey conducted in July 2015, 47 per cent of Canadian respondents disagreed that someone with a dementia diagnosis could live well. The truth is, many people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia can continue to live well, participate and contribute in their communities and form meaningful friendships. Kontos stresses that “Supporting the dignity and worth [of those living with Alzheimer’s] improves their well-being and quality of life.” The reality of Alzheimer’s is well known; it is affecting more people each year and the cause and cure is still a mystery. However people with the disease who accept their diagnosis, make the necessary lifestyle adjustments and most importantly, who seek out the appropriate assistance from community support organizations (like the Alzheimer Society and others), can and do live lives that are productive and rewarding. For the public, the campaign’s call to action is to better understand that message and to “be there, for those that are still here”
The campaign includes national advertising in print and online, a 30-second video and an online quiz about the disease. The #StillHere campaign kicked off Alzheimer Awareness Month and hopes to give those living with the disease a voice in the national conversation on dementia. To learn more about the campaign, please visit: http://www.alzheimerlondon.ca/stillhere.