New study shows dementia on the rise

New study shows dementia on the rise

By Mike Renzella

The Haldimand Press

World Alzheimer’s Day September 21: Know Dementia, Know Alzheimer’s

HALDIMAND—A recent study conducted by the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada (ASoC) warns that the number of existing dementia cases in the country could triple by the year 2050 if no action is taken to stem the rising tide of cases.

As of 2020, there were 597,300 cases in Canada, but the report predicts that number will increase to 1.7 million by 2050, with 505,846 of those cases located in Ontario.

Local estimates show approximately 12,000 people are living with dementia in Hamilton and Haldimand, but specific data does not exist showing how those numbers break down between the different communities.

Julia Chao, Director of Programs and Services at Alzheimer Society of Brant, Haldimand, Norfolk, Hamilton, and Halton (AS) gave an overview of how Alzheimer’s, the most common type of dementia, impacts patients: “Though dementia mostly affects older adults, it is not a part of normal aging. A person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s may experience memory loss, difficulty performing daily activities, changes in judgement, reasoning, behaviour, and/or emotions. Over time, a person’s ability to understand, think, remember, and communicate will be impacted.”

The disease is difficult to treat because it affects each person differently, with no reliable progression patterns to follow: “The changes can be very distressing or challenging,” added Chao. “Alzheimer’s disease is a fatal disease and there is currently no cure or a treatment that will stop the progression.”

While Chao said there are various risk factors, the biggest driver behind the steep increase in predicted cases is the growing senior population in the country.

“Canada has more people among the older cohort as a percentage of the whole population than in previous years. While Alzheimer’s disease most often occurs in people over 65 years of age, the disease can affect adults at an earlier age.”

Lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s starts with a healthy lifestyle, according to Chao, who listed a healthy diet, good stress-handling skills, and regular physical and mental activity as ways to reduce the risk and slow its progress once diagnosed.

“There is more and more evidence that lifestyle choices that keep mind and body fit can be protective against the development of the disease,” said Chao, adding, “Get diagnosed early and access to services and supports once there is a diagnosis.”

She said on a broader level, there needs to be government investment in local communities for programs and services for people living with dementia and their care partners to “stay in their homes and communities,” and “public policy and strategies to build dementia friendly communities.”

For those diagnosed with the disease, AS offers a range of services for both those afflicted and their family members. Programs covering dementia education, counselling and support, and health and wellness activities are available. The Society offers 1:1 support, therapeutic and social recreation groups, and exercise sessions.

Coming this weekend, the entire community is invited to the MICE+ Festival, run by Memory Inclusive Communities Everywhere, on Saturday, September 24. Visit the Caledonia Kinsmen Park between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to learn more about how we can include family, friends, and neighbours living with memory and coginitive challenges. There will be a community fair and marketplace, a mural unveiling, speakers, gift bags, door prizes, kids crafts, food for sale, a food drive for local charity, and more. For more information on this event, visit micehaldimand.ca.

For more information on dementia in general, visit alzda.ca; call between 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday (Norfolk County: 519-428-7771, Haldimand County: 905-768-4488, Toll-free: 1-800-565-4614); or email help@alzda.ca.

10 warning signs that a loved one might have dementia

Memory loss that affects day-to-day abilities. We all occasionally forget appointments, other people’s names, or phone numbers. A person living with Alzheimer’s disease may forget things more often or struggle regularly to recall information recently learned.

Difficulty performing familiar tasks. When we are busy, we can get distracted and forget to finish tasks until later. A person living with Alzheimer’s disease may have trouble completing tasks that have been familiar all their life, such as preparing a meal or playing a game.

Problems with language. Sometimes we have trouble finding the right word or phrase to express ourselves. A person living with Alzheimer’s disease may forget simple words or substitute words to the point that it is difficult to understand. 

Disorientation in time and space. We all have days when we forget the day of the week or where we may be going for a moment. A person living with Alzheimer’s disease can become lost on their own street or a neighbourhood they have been familiar with all their lives. 

Impaired judgment. We all have made questionable decisions in our lives. A person living with Alzheimer’s disease may experience changes in their decision-making ability regularly. For example, wearing heavy clothing on a hot day.

Problems with abstract thinking. From time to time, we may struggle with activities that require abstract thinking like doing mental math. A person living with Alzheimer’s disease may have significant challenges due to not knowing what the numbers are and how they are used.

Misplacing things. We all have experienced moments when we have misplaced our keys, wallet, or phone. A person living with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in inappropriate places. For example, an iron in the freezer or a watch in a sugar bowl.

Changes in mood and behaviour. Many of us have moments when we feel sad or moody. A person living with Alzheimer’s disease can experience mood swings with no obvious reason.

Changes in personality. Overtime, our personalities may change is subtle ways. A person living with Alzheimer’s disease may experience more noticeable personality changes, such as becoming confused, suspicious, withdrawn, fearful, having a lack of interest, or acting out of character.

Loss of initiative. We all can get tired of our activities sometimes. A person living with Alzheimer’s disease may become passive, disinterested, and need prompting to participate or be involved.