Monday, 23 February 2015

Living with Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's is a disease that you may be aware of only peripherally unless it has touched your family or friends. The following are the statistics from the Alzheimer's Society of Canada website:

  • In 2011, 747,000 Canadians were living with cognitive impairment, including dementia (approximately 15% of Canadians 65 and older).
  • By 2031, if nothing changes in Canada, this figure will increase to 1.4 million.

 Researchers are still uncertain as to the exact effect of Alzheimer's disease on the brain, although they do know that cells are damaged and eventually die in different areas of the brain. The death of brain cells leads to dementia, characterized by memory loss, impaired judgment, and behavioral changes.
Although no one knows the exact cause of the disease, there are a number of risk factors that have been identified such as head injury, vascular disease, and gender. For example, women are twice as likely as men to develop the disease.

There are ten major warning signs of the disease:
  1.  memory loss that affects day-to-day function
  2. difficulty performing familiar tasks
  3.  problems with language
  4.  disorientation of time and place
  5.  poor or decreased judgment
  6.  problems with abstract thinking
  7.  misplacing things
  8.  changes in mood and behavior
  9.  changes in personality
  10.  loss of initiative  

It's important to note that there are major differences between symptoms of Alzheimer's and signs of normal aging:

Normal Aging 
Not being able to remember details of a conversation or event that took place a year ago  Not being able to recall details of recent events or conversations 
Not being able to remember the name of an acquaintance  Not recognizing or knowing the names of family members
Forgetting things and events occasionally  Forgetting things or events more frequently 
Occasionally have difficulty finding words  Frequent pauses and substitutions when finding words 
You are worried about your memory but your relatives are not Your relatives are worried about your memory, but you are not aware of any problems

 At this time, there is no treatment to delay, cure, or stop the progression of Alzheimer's disease. Approved drugs temporarily slow the worsening of symptoms for about six to twelve months, on average, for about half of the individuals who take them.

It is vital for family members who are caregivers of persons living with Alzheimer's to seek help-- without guilt--to cope with the disease and to safeguard their own physical and mental health.

There are multiple resources and support groups.  For a list of Canadian web resources, see Alzheimer's Society of Canada also has a list of provincial societies:

In the United States, please see the Alzheimer's Foundation of America's site at

In the United Kingdom, please see the Alzheimer's Research UK site at 

Please remember that exercise, healthy eating, and brain boosters such as crossword puzzles and computer games can help in keeping your brain healthy. For more information, visit

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