Breaking the stigma surrounding Alzheimer's
LONDON, ONT. -- Maggie Perquin remembers the day her wife Ruth Martin was diagnosed with dementia.
“There’s that moment when you’re like, 'Okay, this is real, this is what we are dealing with,' and knowing then that our plan for the future was drastically going to be altered.”
There can be a stigma surrounding Alzheimer’s and Perquin says as a lesbian couple she and Martin have faced stigma before, so to add the social challenges of dementia to their lives was scary.
“Being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia is like another coming out,” says Perquin. “You lose your social filters and so the further into aging you get, the more you go back to those beginning years, and you don’t want to go through that fear again. That’s one place you are never going to go again.”
Despite their fears, the couple reached out to the Alzheimer’s Society London-MIddlesex (ASLM) and were welcomed with open arms, by an organization that’s been welcoming many new faces.
“We are at almost 2,800 current clients and that represents and increase over the last five years of 134 per cent, so it’s certainly a growing need in our community,” says Nancy O’ Regan, program manager at the ASLM.
She says the numbers would likely be even higher, but there is in fact a stigma for some who have been diagnosed to walk through the doors.
“We certainly recognize it’s difficult for people even just to cross our threshold,” says O’Regan. “By coming into an agency like ours they have to acknowledge this is happening in their life and it’s happening to them. But a really important message is that they know their personhood is respected when they come here.”
Now Perquin and Martin want to help break that stigma, especially within the LGBTQ community. In attempts to do so, they’ve organized an information evening at the ASLM.
“We are going to host this event that is exclusively for those in the queer community who are inquiring about, just being diagnosed, who are living with but don’t want to come out yet about it, this the safe place to do that,” Perquin says.
The event takes place on Jan. 22 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the ALSM office, 436 Windermere Avenue in London, Ont. and those interested must RSVP by Jan. 20 to: email@example.com