Kelowna resident Craig Burns worked hard to build a career he loved and an avid social circle.
But when he was diagnosed with young-onset Alzheimer’s disease, he was faced with jokes and awkward conversations from his friends.
They claimed he had changed and they didn’t know how to talk to him anymore. “It hurt,” said Burns. “You lose a piece of yourself. You’ve invested a lot of time and energy in each other.”
Burns is one of the thousands of people living with dementia who lost social connections when they needed them the most. It’s this loss that pushed Burns to join the Alzheimer Society of B.C. awareness campaign this fall to say, “Don’t change. Even if they do.”
The campaign aims to inspire people to reflect on the ways they show up for the others in their lives who are living with dementia.
According to the Alzheimer Society of B.C. interim CEO Barbara Lindsay, an estimated 60 per cent of people with a diagnosis of dementia live in the community instead of in long-term care.
“We know that people living with dementia in Penticton and throughout the Okanagan, and their caregivers, are facing more social isolation than ever,” said Alzheimer Society of B.C. interim CEO Barbara Lindsay. “The best thing we can all do to support anyone living with dementia is not change, even if they do. Keep visiting. Keep calling or FaceTiming. Even during COVID, we need to maintain our connections to people living with dementia to show that they’re not alone.”
As a part of the campaign, the society is asking the public to visit www.dontchange.ca to pledge how they’ll continue to stay connected to people affected by dementia.
As for Burns, the pain of losing friendships has given way to gratitude for the close friends that remain in his life.
“My friends keep me going, even the ones I talk to weekly over Skype,” he says.
“We support each other. I feel like I’m a part of the mix. I’m still relevant.”