Let’s take a moment to consider one of the biggest health crises that we will be facing over the next several years. A health diagnosis that not only robs people of their memories but a health crisis that can destroy families. Without planning, I fear it may also bankrupt our health care system.
Alzheimers disease is the most common form of dementia and is only one of many diseases that can cause dementia. Dementia is a progressive disease of brain cells that includes symptoms of memory loss, confusion, difficulty with problem solving and thinking and can impact, at end stages even the most basic of functioning levels. It affects one’s ability to live independently and perform everyday tasks, including both instrumental activities of daily living (ie shopping, cooking, banking, using the telephone) and activities of daily living including bathing, eating and toileting. Here’s what we know:
- 1 in 3 seniors over age 85 will develop a dementia
- 65% of those diagnosed over age 65 are women
- 16,000 Canadians under age 65 live with dementia (2016)
- 25,000 new cases are diagnosed every year
- 1 million Canadians are affected directly or indirectly by the disease
- $10.4 billion annual cost to Canadians to care for those living with dementia
- 24 hour care is required at some point along the journey
- The greatest risk of developing dementia is aging
- Dementia is not a normal part of aging
- Many living with dementia can continue to have meaningful relationships and productive lives for many years
- There is no cure
I am glad to say that finally the message is being heard. Bill C-233, an Act respecting a national strategy for Alzheimers disease and other dementias received Royal Asset on June 22, 2017. Canada is the 30th Country (out of 194 World Health Organization members) to now have a Dementia Strategy.
The Alzheimers Society has been doing great work in helping to destigmatize the diagnosis and encourage those affected to seek help and speak out.
Much work is still to be done. It is a long journey and there are many individuals and families who are struggling to cope with a difficult and nasty disease that impacts the entire family unit.
Please consider getting involved with your local Alzheimers Society by advocating, donating and participating in awareness and educational campaigns.