Advocate underscores important role language plays to people living with Alzheimer’s

Jim Mann, who was was diagnosed 10 years ago, says ‘responsible language’ makes a positive impact

Jim Mann makes it clear that he is “living” with Alzheimer’s disease – he is not “suffering” from the condition.

He is also not an “Alzheimer’s patient,” he notes.

“(Patient) is a word used in the context of hospitals and doctor’s offices,” Mann writes on the Alzheimer Society of Canada’s website.

“When I am in those places receiving treatment, I am a patient. When I am elsewhere, living my life, I am a husband, a friend, a retired communications professional, a 68-year-old man from Surrey, B.C.”

Mann is also a volunteer and advocate for the Alzheimer Society. One of his missions as a volunteer and advocate is to get people to think differently about the words they use when discussing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Words, he says, have a direct impact on people living with these conditions. Caregivers and family members often use words like “suffer” and “patient” when referring to Alzheimer’s disease and those living with the condition, and Mann says this can have an adverse effect.

“When we are careless with our language, we can end up isolating and disempowering the very people we are trying to help,” he says.

Mann was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2007. Since then, he has become a “stickler” for people using what he calls “responsible language.”

And he is perfectly comfortable talking to people about Alzheimer’ disease and his diagnosis, he notes.

In fact, he encourages others to ask him about Alzheimer’s disease.

“Occasionally, (people) will challenge me – they’ll say, “You can’t have Alzheimer’s disease. We’re talking, after all,’ ” Mann explains.

“Of course, I have good memory days and bad memory days. But please, don’t judge me based on my illness. Talk to me, get to know me. We might even become friends. That’s a word I’m comfortable with.”

You can read more about Jim Mann on the Alzheimer Society’s website by clicking here.

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