Written on January 27, 2015 – 6:26 am | by Audrey Miller
January is Alzheimer Awareness Month and as it comes to a close, I am more mindful about the landscape of which we are all a part. Where Alzheimer’s has been a dementia of old age, we who are boomers are all experiencing memory problems and more of us, aged 40-60 years are being diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. I have had reason to reflect on these issues in this month.
The York Regional Police report of January 17, 2015 stated that a 76-year-old grandmother went missing and was found more than 14 hours later sitting in a stranger’s car. Police stated that she was inside a vehicle and managed to slip away without her caregiver noticing. Also reported was that she suffers from severe dementia and speaks very little English. Police were particularly concerned about her because of the freezing temperatures overnight. Temperatures dipped to -3 overnight but it felt like -12 with the wind chill. Closer to home, a few months ago, we began working with a family where the wife went out for walk and she too went missing for 24 hours. She had been able to remove her GPS tracking system, which was in her coat pocket; police were sent looking for her as well. Fortunately, the weather was warmer in October and she was found unharmed and in relatively good health as well.
I highly recommend that registration with the Safely Home Program from the Alzheimer’s Society be completed before it is needed.
Alzheimer’s disease will eventually affect how a person thinks, feels, acts, and reacts to the environment. Symptoms will gradually increase and become more persistent. The Federal Government estimates that 500,000 Canadians live with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia and further predict that this number will double within a generation. The Alzheimer’s Society of Canada says that women represent 72% of Canadians living with Alzheimer’s disease and their newest campaign sponsored by KPMG Foundation is called ‘The 72%’.
This is because women are doubly affected by Alzheimer’s disease as they outnumber men living with the disease and more often than not shoulder the responsibility of caring for a family member with it.
The Alzheimer’s Society of Canada’s emphasis is on walking the talk and on knowing the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s and on sharing them with our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters and friends. The Women’s Brain Health Initiative also understands these concerns and offers information geared to specific women’s brain health.
People with early onset are in their 40s and 50s have families, careers or may even be caregivers themselves when Alzheimer’s disease strikes. Since health care providers generally don’t look for Alzheimer’s disease in younger people, getting an accurate diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s can be a long and frustrating process. Symptoms may be incorrectly attributed to stress or there may be conflicting diagnoses from different health care professionals. People who have early onset Alzheimer’s may be in any stage of dementia – early stage, middle stage or late stage. The disease affects each person differently and symptoms will vary. While this is Alzheimer Awareness month, we need to keep in mind this is a disease that impacts lives daily. Many of us will be touched by Alzheimer’s and the key messages here are to remember that You Are Not Alone and that support and assistance is available.
-Audrey Miller and Renee Ruiter-Kohn