in 2011, 747,000 Canadians were living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias - that’s 14.9% of Canadians 65 and older. By 2031, if nothing changes in Canada, this figure will increase to 1.4 million. As of 2015, 47.5 million people worldwide are living with dementia, or more than the total population of Canada. The global number will increase to an estimated 75.6 million in 2030, and will almost triple by 2050 to 135.5 million.
Highlights of the recent seminar in Red Deer included exploring awareness and education for those with early onset dementia by reviewing home care differences across the province; the lack of services and programming for early onset patients and their caregivers; long-term care for dementia patients who are still physically active; diagnosis and medical supports and awareness and education for dementia.
Among the speakers was Dr. Duncan Robertson - a specialist in internal and geriatric medicine from Victoria - who addressed the gathering in the Margaret Parsons Theatre in RDC. Robertson discussed what may be done to prevent or delay cognitive impairment and the challenges of recognizing and diagnosing dementia, among other topics. He also discussed 10 things people need to know about dementia, including that very few who come to a hospital or clinic complaining of a poor memory actually have dementia. “Some have age associated memory changes, depression, drug or alcohol-related memory changes or mild cognitive impairment. When brought unwillingly by a family member, the probability of underlying dementia is higher,” he said. Also, he pointed out that most Alzheimer Disease (AD) cases are sporadic. Between 5% to 10% of AD is familial. Having a close family member with dementia does increase risk, however.
Dementia prevalence also increases with age, doubling every five years after the age of 65. And currently, there is no drug to prevent or reverse dementia. And speaking of drugs, it’s important to be mindful of medications that may be contributing to overall cognitive impairment as a side effect. “Part of dementia involves a chemical system within the brain which can be affected by a lot of drugs,” he said.
Other risk factors for dementia include age, vascular risk factors and head injury. A healthy diet, social engagement and physical activity may, on the other hand, be somewhat preventive, as can intellectually stimulating activity. As for the issue of why it’s sometimes hard to get a diagnosis, Robertson presented stats that show in Canada that 50% of people wait one year before seeking help. Twenty-five per cent of people refused to see a doctor about it in the first place and 53% just chalked up the symptoms to ‘old age’.
Local organizer Larry Quintilio wants to reach out to those who are dealing with an early onset of Alzheimer’s disease.