Fight the stigma on World Alzheimer’s Day with awareness and burgers

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

Clear out your schedule – and make sure you’re hungry – as this Thursday marks World Alzheimer’s Day, and there is going to be plenty on offer to raise awareness and funding for the continuing fight for those living with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as other forms of dementia.

Mary O’Connor, the Rainy River District client services co-ordinator for the Alzheimer Society of Kenora-Rainy River, said that she has a number of different events planned for Thursday, and noted that she was actively approached by another local business who wanted to help out as well.

“I was just absolutely delighted that we had somebody in Fort Frances who contacted me and asked if they could set up their food booth and donate $1 per burger to the Alzheimer Society,” she shared.

“Can you imagine? It’s absolutely fantastic. I said ‘of course!’”

That charitable vendor is none other than the Talk on the Street Eatery, just recently on the road with their brand new food truck. O’Connor and the Talk on the Street Eatery Facebook page both shared that on Thursday, $1 from the sale of every special “HANDBERG-ER” burger will go to the Alzheimer Society, meaning you can help out a good cause while also helping yourself to a good burger at the Rainy Lake Square. The food truck will also have an assorted menu available for purchase.

Outside of food, O’Connor said she will have a booth set up at the Rainy Lake Square during the morning in order to help spread awareness of Alzheimer disease and the Society itself.

“I will be down there from when it opens up until noon,” She said.

“We’ll see how it goes. It’s the same day as my regularly scheduled in-person support group in Fort Frances. Then I’m going to be at the library from 4:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.. I’ll just have a table set up and it will be come and go. I’ll have information, I’ll have a couple of door prizes, that kind of stuff.”

O’Connor said she will also be hosting a Dementia 101 class that evening beginning at 7:00 p.m., which is not only intended for those living with dementia, or serving as a caretaker, but also for families and those who might not yet have an official diagnosis from a doctor.

The whole day is meant to raise awareness around dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and O’Connor said she wants to continue to help erase the stigma surrounding dementia, which will hopefully in turn help ease people’s fears about it.

“Getting a dementia diagnosis is not a death sentence for tomorrow,” she explained.

“There’s so much living and so much that people with dementia can do and live full lives for years. For Alzheimer’s, they say it can be 12 or 15 years. My whole job is to improve the quality of life for families who have a loved one with dementia.”

O’Connor said she’d also like to reach more people and help them overcome any fear or reticence towards visiting those living with dementia, which involves giving them tips on how to interact with them.

“What I would like to do is empower them to feel comfortable visiting people with dementia,” she said.

“If they say something that’s a little off, you know, how to roll with the punches. How I talk about it, it’s like being in an improv show. If something is a little bit off, go with it. It’s about the interaction, the socializing and the connecting. You don’t have to stay long. If you’re uptown and find a magazine, you can buy it and stop for a little visit and bring it to them. The idea is to keep connected.”