Showing the world that living well with dementia is definitely possible
If you happen to wander down Main Street in any of the Schlegel Villages across southern Ontario throughout the month of January, you might notice team members dressed in purple or perhaps a purple ribbon adorning a resident’s lapel. Posters along the walls may carry the colour as well or maybe someone will hand you a purple cookie.
It’s all meant to spark a conversation about life in the face of Alzheimer’s disease and the many other forms of dementia that affect approximately 750,000 Canadians today. January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month across the country and within Schlegel Villages, support is strong for the campaign, which aims to open a different conversation about dementia and help people realize that it’s entirely possible to live a good life after a dementia diagnosis.
It is an unfortunate reality, however, that today an entrenched social stigma still hovers over Alzheimer’s and dementia to the point that, according to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, 47 per cent of Canadians do not agree with the idea that a good life following dementia diagnosis is possible.
“Words and actions are powerful and can change the story of dementia,” says Mimi Lowi-Young, CEO at the Alzheimer Society of Canada. “That’s the goal of our campaign, to dispel the myths around what it means to live with dementia and encourage all of us to see the person beyond the condition.”
Within Schlegel Villages, this quest to challenge the stigma and dispel the myths is central to many of the signature programs offered to residents and families. Along with supporting the premise behind Alzheimer’s Awareness this month, the villages are celebrating efforts that have been made to change the way care and support is offered to those residents who are living with dementia.
LIVING in My Today, for example, is a key program offered to direct care partners, families and residents, which helps participants understand that dementia, in all of its manifestations, is as unique as each individual person diagnosed. The only way to truly support someone, the philosophy suggests, is to be present with them in the moment and treat each day as an opportunity for growth and development. Many successes have been realized since the program was introduced two years ago, and it continues to spread throughout the villages.
There has also been continued success with the Music and Memory program, which brings personalized music to people living with dementia and the Java Music Club remains an important part of many residents lives. This mutual support program, facilitated in each village by team members and volunteers, brings people with and without dementia together to support each other in the challenges of life. The connections made in these small groups remain an inspiration and continue to bring comfort and a true sense of purpose to those who participate.
Throughout January and into the future, the Village Voice will offer individual stories related to these programs, on top of the regular examples of people living life to the fullest with the villages.