Chilliwack workshops bring comfort, help de-stigmatize dementia

Dementia is coming to the forefront of public attention, and it’s more common than you might think.

Jude Weir is the support and education co-ordinator for Chilliwack and Hope for Alzheimer’s Society of B.C.  She says the population of both Canada and the Fraser Valley is aging rapidly, and it shows.

The Society hosts informational workshops all over the province, bringing “Getting to Know Dementia” to Chilliwack in September.

The first session, planned for Sept. 3, filled up in less than a week.

“There is an amazing amount of interest,” Weir says. “We’re talking 40 registrants, so not a small workshop.”

She’s since added a second workshop on Sept. 4, and is poised to add a third if necessary.

Weir says the interest is surprising, but welcome—evidence that dementia is something people are willing to have a conversation about.

“One of the things that most people don’t recognize or don’t realize—is Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia, but there are well over 50 kinds of dementia,” Weir says. Dementia is a blanket term, applied to a broad range of symptoms and diseases.

“One of the most difficult things about dementia is that it’s slightly different with each individual,” she says.

But while every instance of dementia is different, there are ways of living well with dementia that apply to every patient.

“Each can present a little differently, but overall the changes that the person with dementia undergoes will follow a general trajectory,” Weir says.

The most effective tool is information.

“With something like dementia that involves you so emotionally, it’s really great to have concrete, factual information to help you step back emotionally and see what’s going on,” she says.

But perhaps the most important aspect of the workshop is the way it brings people together in the same room—those diagnosed with dementia, family, and caregivers alike.

“I think that gives people a lot of hope that they’re not alone,” Weir says. “They look around the room… and they recognize there are a lot of people in their community who are coping as well. Perhaps they see someone they’ve seen at the bank, and the next time they bump into each other, someone initiates a conversation.”

The Society offers a variety of services and workshops to help make dementia less alarming for those dealing with it. “Getting to Know Dementia” is their most popular workshop, and they’ll also offer a more advanced series in November aimed at current caregivers.

There are local support groups for those dealing with dementia, as well as a 24-hour helpline at 604-681-8651.

Finally, Weir says her door is always open—she’s reachable by phone and email for anyone in the Chilliwack and Hope area.

These measures are designed to bring dementia into the open. While the disease can be extremely isolating, Weir says, it’s important for patients to remember that they aren’t alone.

• “Getting to Know Dementia” is offered on Sept. 4 at 3 p.m. at Evergreen Hall. The workshop is free, but pre-registration is required. To register, or to find more info about the workshop or dementia, contact Jude Weir at 604-702-4603 or

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