LTC homes have role to play to help end stigma surrounding dementia: Alzheimer Society

Alzheimer Society director of education Mary Schulz

Encouraging friendships between residents with and without dementia is an important step, says Alzheimer Society education director Mary Schulz

The Alzheimer Society of Canada’s 2018 awareness campaign is focused on ending the stigma surrounding dementia, and the organization’s director of education says long-term care homes have a role to play in achieving this goal.

Mary Schulz says that while long-term care providers work hard to be inclusive and foster an understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia, the condition’s stigma “does not stop at the door of long-term care homes.”

Some long-term-care home residents, she says, are not always willing to befriend residents with dementia or don’t want to be in the same dining room or living in the same area of a home.

“They are afraid of being painted with the same brush,” Schulz tells The OMNIway.

But Schulz says the good news is that many long-term care providers are “pioneering” in this area by having conversations about the fact some residents in long-term care homes have dementia, some have had strokes and some have other conditions. The tie that binds them is that they all require long-term care, she notes.

One of Schulz’s suggestions is to engage long-term-care home residents not living with dementia to educate them about the condition and what they can do to help those residents who do have dementia.

For example, long-term care residents not living with dementia can be encouraged to befriend residents who are living with the condition, she says.

“And let’s also think about what (residents not living with dementia) need support with, because the person with dementia may very well be able to help them,” Schulz says.

“It’s about thinking outside the borders of that home, and thinking about what can residents, including residents with dementia, do to interact with the outside community, with day programs, with community programs, with community centres that are doing exercise programs or other kinds of programs.

“I think it’s all about bringing down those borders and boundaries that tend to separate us, and think about how to integrate people more, because we are all social people, whether we have dementia or not, we all need people, and that doesn’t stop if you live in a long-term care home,” Schulz says.

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