City raises flag to mark Alzheimer Awareness Month

People diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or dementia and their supporters raise the Alzheimer Society flag with North Bay Mayor Al McDonald, Friday, at North Bay City Hall. PJ Wilson/The Nugget

Share Adjust Comment Print

Shortly after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Bob Wood was in the car with his wife, Carol, when a thought struck him.

“It’s one of those diseases that nobody talks about,” Wood says.

“Cancer used to be the same thing. No one wanted to talk about it. You would say ‘Hey, you hear about so-and-so? He has the Big C.’”

Wood, 78, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease last year. The former radio personality, member of North Bay council and member of Parliament for Nipissing, was one of about 20 people present for the raising of the Alzheimer Society of Canada flag at North Bay City Hall.

And while the raising of the flag was “important to me, it’s more important to the community,” Wood says, pointing out the need to talk about the disease.

Alzheimer’s disease leads to memory loss, difficulties with thinking, problem-solving and language, severe enough to reduce one’s ability to perform every day tasks.

One of the first things Wood did was contact his old friend, Peter Handley, host of Your TV’s Life with Peter Handley, to talk about the diagnosis.

“It really took off from there,” Wood says. That interview sparked the most responses the show had ever seen with Wood’s message that “we have got to bring this out into the open.”

That flag-raising, Stephanie Leclair, executive director of the Alzheimer Society of Sudbury-Manitoulin North Bay and Districts, was “a message to the community.

“It says ‘we are here,’” Leclair, says. “It says ‘we live in the community. We live well. We will continue to live well.’

“It’s an important message that we want to share with the community and to reduce the stigma” surrounding Alzheimer’s and dementia.

It’s estimated 747,000 Canadians are now affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia, and that number is expected to double over the next two decades.

Despite the diagnosis, Wood says he doesn’t think he’s had to make many adjustments to his life.

“I still do what I want to do. I still . . . go out for dinner” and socialize with his friends.

“It’s more keeping Bob on task,” Carol Wood says, things like reminding him that Meals on Wheels will be visiting, or that he has a dentist appointment.

Wood laughs out loud.

“Keeping me on task has always been a hard thing to do.”

 

 

North Bay Mayor Al McDonald and former Nipissing MP Bob Wood raise the Alzheimer’s Society flag at North Bay City Hall, Friday morning. The flag-raising is sending a message to the community that those with Alzheimer’s and dementia “are here . . . and will continue to live well.”PJ Wilson/The Nugget

 

Carol Wood says there have been some subtle changes to her husband, but he says he is keeping on with “business as usual.

“So far I’ve been able to carry on with my life,” he says. “Sure, it’s going to change. But if I can bring more awareness about it, take away some of the stigma, I’ll be happy.”

This was the first time the Alzheimer flag has been raised in North Bay, and that in itself was an “important gesture,” Leclair says.

She points out that there is an aging demographic in the community, “with quite an increase in referrals in the community.”

Alzheimer’s is second only to cancer as the top fears in aging.

“We need to remove that fear,” Leclair says. “A diagnosis is not the end. People can live very well with it.”

John Fowler was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease just over a year ago. He’s part of The Breakfast Club, a group of people in the city who get together for coffee and to socialize.

“I’m not alone,” he says. “It’s been great, honestly, to know I’m not the only one.”

He admits some of his old friends – people he used to socialize with – have stopped calling him, although he has found new friends who face the same challenges.

“It’s socially excluding,” Leclair says.

“It is what it is,” Fowler says.

The flag-raising at city hall included a proclamation from council declaring January Alzheimer Awareness Month. It’s tied in with an online campaign with the message “Yes. I live with dementia. Let me help you understand.”

Comments