Torch - Spring 2017

Curbing the Stigma Around Dementia: A Blog Project

correct and also contributes expertise (he has his own blog for Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre at health. ). Creating the blog has also made Chow realize that she’s not alone in dealing with a relative with the disease, as she realized after she shared her efforts on Facebook. “It was amazing because the next day I had so many people come up to me, both girls I knew and those I didn’t, who were just like, ‘Hey I saw your blog. Amazing work.’ They just really opened up about what it means to some of them,” Chow says. She notes that several girls shared their own experiences with the disease. After 15 weeks of visits, the official project wrapped up for the term, but Chow hopes to continue it next year, both visiting her senior friend and also making the blog even more interactive to respond to readers’ questions. At the end of April, she brought in Dr. Herrmann as a guest speaker for the Dementia Symposium. Chow says she has changed in many ways by her initiative. She’s learned a lot about the disease, including the need to continue to destigmatize the condition. An aspiring doctor, she’s also considering geriatrics as a focus for medical school. But probably the most profound change has been her new friendship with the dementia care home resident. “I can tell that, for her, our social interaction is more than just a weekly visit, it’s a friendship. She even tells the staff there that I’m her daughter,” Chow says.

Grade 11 student Selina Chow made a new friend this year. This friend loves to talk and host visitors and is always asking if Chow has a boyfriend. But this new friend is also different from some of Chow’s other mates: she’s in her 80s and lives in a dementia care home. While the warmth that Chow has found from her friendship may be personal, she’s made her journey into the relationship public via a blog for the Dementia Awareness Program ( ) that she started at Havergal. Inspired by her grandfather’s diagnosis with the disease, Chow wanted to learn more about dementia, raise awareness and reduce stigma around the condition. “At the beginning, I thought it was just a matter of time until he would forget me. I started to do a bit more research into dementia, to see if there was anything I could do to help with my grandpa,” Chow says. Enlisting the support of The Institute staff, she recruited four fellow students from Grades 10 to 12 and also contacted Dr. Nathan Herrmann, the head of geriatric psychiatry at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, who partnered the girls with residents at the dementia care home. Since November, Chow has visited her new friend every Wednesday after school and publishes a new blog entry every Tuesday. The detailed posts share everything from statistics and facts on dementia to tips on treatments to advice on communicating with patients. Her mentor, Dr. Herrmann, helps her make sure the posts are factually


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