My name is Tanis Rummery. I have vascular dementia, but you can’t tell that by looking at me. When I’m out in the community, I’m not afraid to tell people so I can get the help I need.
It’s been a few years since I got the diagnosis, but I’m managing very well. It’s true that I can see changes in myself, but I still live in my own apartment, and I volunteer at a pet rescue shelter. I also attend my support group at the Alzheimer Society. It’s been a lifesaver for me. The great leadership and deep friendships I’ve formed have helped keep my spirit strong.
I’m lucky that I’m still quite independent, and I think I’m living well. I have friends who understand. If I miss a word in the conversation, I say, “You get the drift!” My friends don’t ask me to search for the word.
People need to know that they can talk to someone with dementia. We want to be treated well. We don’t want to be treated as though we’re unstable or crazy. But sometimes it’s hard to tell us from anybody else, because we don’t necessarily have wheelchairs or white canes. So, if I’m struggling with something, such as finding a product in a store, I tell the clerk that I have dementia. I’ve found that people are happy to help.
I think that by being honest, we can create awareness in others who may not understand dementia. Once they see us as people who just need a little help sometimes, they’ll see us as who we are: people who are living their lives — in their own way — with dementia.
One in four Canadians would feel ashamed or embarrassed if they had dementia. Nearly half wouldn’t want anyone to know at all if they were diagnosed. Dementia is one of Canada’s rapidly growing diseases, yet myths abound. Due to stigma or negative attitudes, people with dementia are being left in the dark. This lack of understanding can lead to those impacted by dementia feeling isolated and misunderstood. It’s time to bring dementia out of the shadows. It’s okay to talk about it, to shout about it. And there is help and life after diagnosis.