A Nanaimo senior with dementia has become an expert on the disease following her diagnosis, and has dedicated herself to advocacy.
Chris Kensit, diagnosed with dementia in 2015, is one of the faces of this year’s Alzheimer’s Awareness Month campaign. The theme of the campaign – ‘I live with dementia. Let me help you understand’ – is meant to remove the stigma of the disease.
Kensit said in a press release that she “had a good cry” after her diagnosis.
“Because my mother lived with dementia – and now that my sister is also living with it – I had intimate knowledge of what the progression of the disease and its symptoms were going to look like,” she said.
Kensit has a science background and found that researching dementia made it easier for her to cope. She joined the B.C. Leadership Group for People Living with Dementia and has advised the Alzheimer Society of B.C. on how to support people affected by the disease and helping to spread awareness.
“I don’t think I’ve encountered stigma as much as I’ve encountered a lack of understanding about the disease – and a lack of patience,” Kensit said. “People need to understand that living with dementia means experiencing certain challenges, particularly around memory. They need to find solutions rather than getting fed up with someone when they’re struggling.”
Jane Hope, support and education coordinator for the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s north and central Vancouver Island resource centre in Nanaimo, said it can be difficult for people to appreciate the damage stigma can have on individuals and families facing dementia.
“Too often, negative feelings, attitudes and stereotypes surrounding dementia dissuade people from seeking help and discourage others from lending their support,” Hope said. “By providing a platform for Canadians to share their stories, we can cultivate empathy and compassion and help break down the stigma so that Canadians living with dementia can live a full life.”
According to the press release, more than half a million Canadians live with dementia, and many family members provide care or are otherwise impacted.
Alzheimer’s Awareness Month started Jan. 6. Nanaimo residents are invited to an open house Jan. 16, 3-5 p.m., at the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s north and central Vancouver Island resource centre at 4-4488 Wellington Rd.