The Alzheimer Society of B.C. is inviting residents to “flip the script” on the stigma associated with dementia.
January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and the society’s campaign will tackle stigma by highlighting people on the dementia journey who continue to find moments of joy, peace and happiness.
Taylor Ogston of Chilliwack is one of those living with dementia who is sharing his story. He is one of five people featured on the Alzheimer Society of B.C. website.
Diagnosed three and a half years ago with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), the first symptoms showed as general forgetfulness. While things progressed slowly, Ogston observed a change in his way of thinking that was noticeable enough to cause concern. Soon, the doctor confirmed early-stage dementia, and despite an inkling that might be the case, for Ogston, the diagnosis felt like a bomb going off.
Yet for his wife Karen Stewart, the diagnosis came as less of a surprise.
“I was expecting it because of his family background. His two aunts passed away from dementia, and one of his uncles. So, when I married him, I knew that there may be a possibility.”
Following Ogston’s initial diagnosis, the couple wanted to be closer to family so after 11 years away, they moved back to B.C. With his MCI progressing into early-stage dementia, the need for support grew and they decided to move to Chilliwack where many of Stewart’s relatives live.
“My sister and her husband live five minutes away, her daughter and family are seven minutes away, and my brother is living with us. It’s very comforting knowing we have support,” Stewart said.
Along with their family, the couple has found support through the Alzheimer Society of B.C.
Ogston’s doctor connected them with the Chilliwack branch, where they have regular phone check-ins with society staff, joined support groups and workshops, and regularly attend the Minds in Motion program.
“We’ve been exercising to some great music and we’re having great fun with that,” Stewart said.
One in two British Columbians believe that a dementia diagnosis means the end of a meaningful life but that’s not the case at all.
Stewart realized that while taking part in one of the programs.
“In one of our workshops, I had an ‘ah-ha’ moment. I hadn’t realized, even if people are living with dementia, it doesn’t mean the end of a meaningful life. And that had never really occurred to me, I was a little surprised about it,” she recalled. “You have to continue to make your life meaningful, just as you did before the diagnosis.”
Ogston has found that the society has helped him share his story and become more at peace with himself.
“I’ve accepted my diagnosis and what’s happening in my life. I’m embracing it,” he said. “I’m here now, with Karen, spending time with her. We really lift each other up, I’m so grateful for her. I’m still breathing and enjoying life, so yeah, I’ve got it made.”
The support of residents in the Fraser Valley allows the Alzheimer Society of B.C. to continue to help people like Ogston living with dementia.
The Alzheimer Society of B.C. is inviting people to make a donation to the society. All donations during January will be matched up to $75,000.
To read more about Taylor Ogston and to read other stories about people living with dementia and for more info on Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, go to alzbc.org/FullOfLife.