Building Awareness for Alzheimer's & Dementia Care Education Week

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    ementia is the collective term for brain disorders that can cause devastating effects on a person’s cognitive abilities. While Alzheimer's is by far the most common, many other forms of dementia can profoundly affect the mind in similar ways. As of January 2024, more than 733,000 people in Canada are living with some form of dementia. By 2030, that number could exceed one million.

    The National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners promotes an annual education week to increase awareness and sensitivity to this all-too-common affliction.

    Care Education Week

    Alzheimer's & Dementia Care Education Week runs between February 14 and 21. Since 2007, this annual observance has sought to bring awareness to the plight of those who suffer from these chronic and degenerative diseases, as well as those who provide care for them.

    While advanced age is typically the biggest risk factor, numerous adults have experienced the onset of dementia in their 50s and 40s – some as early as their 30s or 20s. While much rarer, young-onset dementia comprises between 2 and 8% of all dementia cases.

    Alzheimer's Disease

    An elderly man suffering the effects of Alzheimer's Disease
    Image by Freepik

    Alzheimer’s accounts for between 60 and 70% of all dementia cases, most commonly found in older adults. The early warning signs include depression, mood swings, confusion, and short-term memory loss. As the disease progresses, the patient’s brain cells begin to die out at an increased rate. Difficulty speaking and walking also become more common as time goes on.

    Vascular Dementia

    A lack of proper blood flow within the brain is the second leading cause of dementia and accounts for roughly 20% of cases. Symptom onset can be gradual or rapid depending on the cause and usually involves confusion, disorientation, and eventually visual impairment and hallucinations.

    Lewy Body Dementia

    Symptoms are similar to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and are caused by protein buildup inside the brain’s nerve cells. Lewy Body is also characterized by sleeping disorders such as trouble sleeping at night and unexpectedly falling asleep during the day.

    Other Prominent Forms of Dementia

    A elderly lady coping with depression and dementia
    Image by Freepik

    There are more than 25 different diseases and conditions that are known to result in dementia. Although less common than the top three forms of dementia, more than 100,000 Canadians suffer from one of the following dementia-causing diseases:

    • Frontotemporal Dementia
    • Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus
    • Parkinson’s Disease
    • Huntington’s Disease
    • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
    • Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome
    • Mixed Dementia

    Reduce Your Risk

    While many factors can increase your chances of developing dementia, there are a few ways that you can help prevent it. Modifying your diet is one of the easiest to control and can make a big difference in the long run. Starting with a healthy balanced diet is always the best option for most health-related matters. Limit your consumption of fatty foods, fried foods, margarine, processed meats, and MSG. You also want to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, vitamins (particularly B12), antioxidants, and omega-3 fats.

    How to Deal with Dementia

    A family comforts their elderly patriarch living with dementia
    Image by Freepik

    While there is no cure for dementia, there are treatments that can help. The best that can be done for most patients is to provide as much peace of mind as possible. Depending on the disease’s progression, the severity of memory loss and confusion may vary. It is important to always speak calmly and listen to concerns and frustrations. Avoid asking direct questions, listen attentively, and avoid contradicting. Failing any of these can quickly cause the patient to spiral. Boredom and loneliness often add to distress, so assist patients to engage in activities whenever possible. So long as it won’t put them at risk, allow the patient to retain as much control in their life as possible.

    Personal Support Workers

    Personal Support Workers are an invaluable resource to those struggling to care for family and friends with dementia. The Personal Support Worker program at ABM College in Toronto prepares students to care for individuals needing assistance with their routine activities, including identifying potential risks, infection control, body mechanics, and proper positioning. With a proven curriculum of theoretical and practical experience, graduates are prepared to work in various settings including homes, assisted living facilities, long-term care, and more.


    Two seniors enjoying the tranquility of the lake
    Image by Freepik

    Regardless of whether or not someone you know is suffering from a form of dementia, it is important to understand what a significant struggle this affliction can be to so many people across Canada and around the world. As Canada’s population shifts to a greater proportion of seniors, dementia will no doubt have an increasing impact on society soon.

    These diseases can be devastating, not only to the afflicted but to those who love them. It is important for everyone to be informed and to be kind.

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