September 2016 will mark the fifth global World Alzheimer’s Month™, an international campaign to raise awareness and challenge stigma.

The theme for World Alzheimer’s Month 2016 is Remember Me. To help raise awareness, the campaign is asking you to get involved by sharing your favourite memories, or memories of a loved one, on social media this September with the hashtags #RememberMe #WAM2016.

As most of you know, the Little Voice Forget Me Not Project was started in honour of Amanda Bernardo’s grandmother Teresina Bernardo who has been suffering with Alzheimer’s disease for over twenty years. More recently, however, Amanda’s other grandmother – Maria Bruni – has been showing early signs of dementia, and is suspected of also being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

It’s never easy to learn that someone you love is going through something that neither of you quite understand. They are confused because they see a shift in their behaviour and their memory; and you are confused because you simply don’t know where to start. Then they often grow angry because they are overwhelmed with the changes they are experiencing; and even you grow angry because you can’t seem to find an answer as to why this disease has taken your loved one. Then reality kicks in, and you see that Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t just strip away your loved one’s memories but it changes everything. It changes how your loved one interacts with you; how they perceive the world; how they function on a day to day basis; and how they maintain their relationships around them. As someone with Alzheimer’s disease on both sides of my family, the reality for me is that I am terrified. I am terrified that Alzheimer’s disease will now strip me from another relationship with someone I love. I am terrified that we don’t know what causes Alzheimer’s disease. And I am terrified that we still don’t have a cure. But I am also even more terrified that my chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease now seem more likely than not. It’s hard to imagine that at such a young age but it’s a terrifying reality that affects all those who could possibly inherit this disease. This is why I am urging you this September to help raise awareness and support your local Alzheimer Society. – Amanda Bernardo

In Canada, an estimated 747,000 Canadians have Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. Over 70,000 of them are under 65 and approximately 50,000 are under the age of 60. 1 in 11 Canadians over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. In just 5 years, as much as 50% more Canadians and their families could be facing Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. Within a generation, the number of Canadians with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, will more than double, ranging between 1 and 1.3 million people.

I am grateful for the memories I have with both my grandmothers. My grandmother Teresina reminds me a lot of myself. She had this strength about her that was always admirable. She did a lot in her life time and it makes me sad to think that in her old age she cannot look back and enjoy how far she has come. Now, to think that my other grandmother here in Canada will be diagnosed with this disease breaks my heart. I grew up with my nonna Maria; all my childhood memories had her in them. I always remember her sneaking Hershey chocolate bars to us before we would leave her house. And her hugs. She gives the best hugs. I hope that never changes.

This September, please make a difference with your social media and ask the world to not only remember Teresina Bernardo and Maria Bruni, but all those struggling with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. #RememberMe

To support the Alzheimer Society of Canada, please donate here.

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