Muskoka Chapter: Dementia Friends are helping to raise awareness

Click here to read ‘Dementia Friends are helping to raise awareness‘ by Lisa Gillan – Muskoka Region.com, September 24, 2015

MUSKOKA — Despite the defeat of a proposed bill on a national dementia strategy in the House of Commons in May of this year, Muskoka Alzheimer Society’s executive director Karen Quemby is spreading awareness of how individuals can get involved in a national initiative to support people with dementia.

“From a national perspective one of the things that has moved forward in terms of having a national strategy or plan, is that they did launch Dementia Friends,” Quemby said.

On Wednesday, Sept. 16 Quemby gave a presentation to the Muskoka chapter of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons at James Street Place in Bracebridge, informing members of the program and how they can get involved.

“Basically this was a call to action from the Alzheimer’s Society and the government of Canada. It was a collaborative initiative that’s moving forward with the strategy to get people to sign up to become Dementia Friends,” Quemby said.

Dementia Friends are people who learn about what living with dementia is like, and then take steps to help people who do live with dementia to live well.

It’s an awareness and engagement initiative with a goal of educating the entire population to reduce stigmas related to dementia, and help those experiencing it in any form to stay connected to their communities.

“I think the government recognizes that dementia’s more than just a health issue, and it’s going to have to involve people with dementia and their care partners when they develop a dementia strategy. And they’re working towards that,” Quemby said.

Dementia Friends has been developed through a partnership between the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, and the federal government, and is based on similar programs already taking place in other parts of the world.

The Government of Canada has a goal of getting one million people to sign up to be Dementia Friends by the spring of 2017.

Participants don’t have to be experts in the field or become formal volunteers with any Alzheimer Society chapter.

“Basically the government is saying, “OK, let’s get Canadians aware of dementia and by committing to be a Dementia Friend you’re going to learn a little bit more about what it’s like to live with dementia. And then hopefully people that know more about what it’s like to live with dementia can help others in the community,” Quemby said.

While Alzheimer’s disease is one specific form of dementia, there are several others as well, and Alzheimer societies provide support to people dealing with all forms.

More information on Muskoka’s Alzheimer Society is available at alzheimer.ca/en/muskoka. Anyone interested in becoming a Dementia Friend can find visit dementiafriends.ca/.

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