Jana and her father Roy walking at their favourite spot, Idlewild Park.

Jana and her father Roy walking at their favourite spot, Idlewild Park.

Stand up against dementia stigma this Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

Jana Schulz of Cranbrook, B.C. – a registered social worker, working as a regional dementia education coordinator for the East Kootenays and elected official within the Métis Nation of British Columbia – feels caregiving has given her purpose. Since her dad Roy’s diagnosis, she feels like she has grown personally and professionally because someone she loves is living with dementia.

In January 2016, Roy was given a diagnosis of early-stage Alzheimer’s disease and a few years later, a second diagnosis of mixed dementia, including vascular dementia.

January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, an opportunity for people to have conversations about dementia. Jana is one of many people across the province who are joining the Alzheimer Society of B.C. for Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, taking a stand against dementia stigma and showing that although dementia is hard, it is possible to live a full and meaningful life. Prior to Roy’s diagnosis, he was very active. He golfed, curled, worked at the pulp mill and even had a DJ business. Jana and Roy have spent countless hours listening to music. “He loves music: he’ll do a lot of clapping and snapping when it’s playing, especially when Jerry Lee Lewis comes on,” says Jana.

As Roy’s dementia has progressed, Jana has learned to lean more into her culture. She takes comfort knowing that Roy’s journey is bringing him closer to their ancestors and she’s brought an Indigenous perspective to the disease to help create a better environment for Roy and others. Through it all, she’s found unexpected gratitude and joy. “Despite all the challenges we’ve faced with the disease, there are so many moments that help shield me from grief. I don’t take those moments for granted,” she says.

First Link® Dementia Helpline can provide you with the support and answers you need.

First Link® Dementia Helpline can provide you with the support and answers you need.

Caring for someone can be complex. The Alzheimer Society of B.C. provides a support system to help caregivers navigate the journey without losing their sense of self. Whether it’s emotional help, respite, practical or community help, there’s no reason you should feel alone. Click here to learn more about caregiver support.

Take part

Tune in for “Conversations that matter: Aging with choice,” a virtual panel discussion on January 27 from 2 to 3 p.m. The event aims to raise awareness of the importance of choice as we age. Alzheimer Society of B.C. CEO Jen Lyle will moderate a discussion between B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie, caregiver Jana Schulz and Jim Mann, who lives with dementia. Learn more at alzbc.org/FullOfLife.

Find support

If you have questions or concerns about dementia, call the First Link® Dementia Helpline, available Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. in English (1-800-936-6033) and from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. in Cantonese or Mandarin (1-833-674-5007) and Punjabi (1-833-674-5003).

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