New 'Dementia Friends' program aims to help Canadians understand condition
Published Friday, June 5, 2015 1:59PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, June 5, 2015 10:23PM EDT
Phyllis Fehr sometimes forgets which type of deli meat she is shopping for at the grocery store.
Although some store clerks are patient, others have rudely dismissed her when she has asked for samples to jog her memory.
“When people see me, I'm young, I’m able-bodied,” she says, “but you can't see dementia."
Fehr, a 56-year-old former nurse from Hamilton, Ont., is pleased about a new initiative that aims to help Canadians better understand her condition.
The government and the Alzheimer Society of Canada launched Dementia Friends Canada on Friday.
Dementia Friends Canada encourages Canadians to view a video online and then to sign up to become a "Dementia Friend."
The video explains how to spot warning signs of the condition, such as loss of memory, disorientation, changes in mood and behaviour, and trouble speaking.
It then explains the best ways to respond to somebody with dementia, such as speaking slowly and maintaining eye contact.
After the video, viewers are invited to become a Dementia Friend and use those tips in real life when they encounter somebody with dementia.
Dementia Friends are also encouraged to spread the message in their social circles and workplaces.
The term dementia covers a number of brain disorders that develop as people age, including Alzheimer's. Other illnesses that may lead to dementia include Parkinson's disease and Huntington's disease.
The new program is based off similar initiatives in the United Kingdom and Japan.
According to the government, three out of four Canadians know someone affected by dementia.
Health Minister Rona Ambrose said the goal is to reduce stigma, “so that when (people with dementia) go to the bank or the corner store, people understand to be a little more patient.”
With a report from CTV Medical Correspondent Avis Favaro