Alzheimer Society aims to show what it’s like living with dementia

For Alzheimer Awareness Month, the charity continues to fight stigma using stories of people living with the disease.

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A new campaign for the Alzheimer Society of Canada continues to work towards ending stigma around dementia by highlighting the real experiences of those living with the disease.

Launched for Alzheimer’s Awareness Month in January, the national bilingual campaign comes as 51% of Canadians admit to using language that is stigmatizing, including dementia-related jokes and references painting people as  “senile,” “crazy” or “demented,” according to the non-profit organization which provides support to people with dementia.

Canadians are being directed to a campaign microsite where they can learn about the stories of real people living with the disease, receive tips on being more “dementia-friendly” and review The Canadian Charter of Rights for People with Dementia, unveiled last year. The campaign is appearing on digital and social, with Toronto’s Ramp Communications leading strategy and creative. In addition, the national organization has sent customizable toolkits to local and provincial Alzheimer Societies across the country in order to facilitate local adaptations.

This year’s campaign, an evolution of 2018’s “Yes I live with dementia. Let me help you understand,” is part of a three-year strategy launched by the Alzheimer Society of Canada in 2018 aimed at ending stigma. Dementia is a combination of symptoms that have many different causes – one of them being Alzheimer’s disease. By telling stories, the campaign helps demystify these and other lesser-known aspects of the disease.

Having worked with Toronto-based Brees Communications on a #StillHere campaign in 2016, the charity partnered with agency Ramp on the first of three campaigns last year. One more is expected as part of the organization’s long-term strategy.

alz_2019_Poster_YesILiveWithDementia-2Dementia is a “highly stigmatized disease,” says Rosanne Meandro, director of communications at the Alzheimer Society of Canada. “I won’t sugarcoat it – it is a fearful disease. But when people think about dementia, generally they fast-forward to the end stages. While the progression is different for each person, having dementia doesn’t mean that life stops. In fact, life continues and it can continue in a very rich and meaningful way.”

Meandro says that is the message the organization hopes to convey in the campaign, and “the best way to do this is through the very matter-of-fact stories of Canadians living with this disease.”

The idea was to serve as a platform for people with dementia to tell their own stories, she says. This year, the charity went with a more colourful palette (imagery last year was done entirely in black and white) and added key phrases of the individuals’ stories to the creative to further contextualize their stories.

Nationally, the charity continues to work with Toronto-based Stephen Thomas, which was named its fundraising AOR in March. The agency also worked with the Alzheimer Society of Ontario on its first television commercials in September with the goal of attracting new donors.

As part of larger efforts around Alzheimer Awareness Month, the charity’s Toronto society worked with newly launched creative shop Good & Ready on a campaign for a Spirit of John concert on Jan. 31, with the proceeds benefiting the Music Project.