Elk Valley residents show support for mental health

Many Fernie residents are this month making one of their most important New Year's resolutions ever.

Many Fernie residents are this month making one of their most important New Year’s resolutions ever.

They’re becoming Dementia Friends, committing to learning a little bit about dementia so they can be supportive and inclusive toward people with the illness, which has become one of the country’s most pressing health issues. Statistics suggest three out of four area residents know someone living with dementia.

“People affected by dementia continue to live in and be a part of our communities, and we can support them to stay connected in ways that are meaningful for them,” said Julie Cameron, First Link Helpline Coordinator

for the non-profit Alzheimer Society of B.C. for the East Kootenay region.

“Through individual actions we can raise awareness of dementia and reduce the stigma attached to it.”

The Dementia Friend campaign is the cornerstone of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, which runs until the end of January.

“Becoming a Dementia Friend is easy,” said Cameron. The process starts by signing up at DementiaFriends.ca. The next step is to understand five simple things about dementia, including that the condition is not a natural part of aging. Another thing to understand is that it is not just about losing your memory. Dementia can affect thinking, communicating and doing everyday activities. However, it is possible to live well with dementia and there is more to a person than a diagnosis of dementia. The Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s East Kootenay branch is here to help people with dementia and their care partners.

“That knowledge can easily translate into action at home and work,” Cameron said.

The Society has supported people living with dementia for 35 years. One of its initiatives, First Link, connects people affected by dementia with information, Society support services and programs such as Minds in Motion, and dementia education sessions at any stage of the journey.

Fernie residents can get more information by contacting the First Link Dementia Helpline toll-free at 1-800-936-6033 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Residents can also contact Julie Cameron at jcameron@alzheimerbc.org and visit Alzheimerbc.org.