January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

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alzheimer_month_2013-enIn Canada, 747,000 people currently live with dementia and one of the major challenges they and their families face when they receive the diagnosis is the stigma associated with it. In fact, according to a recent poll by Alzheimer’s Disease International, 40 per cent of people with dementia reported they had been avoided or treated differently after diagnosis. That’s why, this January during Alzheimer Awareness Month, the Alzheimer Society Canada is launching a nation-wide campaign called “See me, not my disease. Let’s talk about dementia.”

CIHR is proud to team up with the Alzheimer Society to further inform Canadians about the myths and stigma surrounding the disease.

Benefits of an early diagnosis

People with dementia can live meaningful and productive lives for many years after an early diagnosis. Dementia diagnosed early helps both the person and family members to learn about the disease, set realistic expectations and plan for their future together.

There are many benefits to an early diagnosis.

Here are our top 10:

Getting an accurate diagnosis
Conditions such as depression, thyroid disease, infections or drug interactions sometimes produce symptoms similar to those of dementia. A thorough medical assessment can lead to an accurate diagnosis so that appropriate treatment can begin.

Being actively involved in health care and personal decisions
Earlier in the process, the person is able to participate more actively in their own health-care decisions and future plans.

Using medications effectively
Treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias is typically most effective when started early in the disease process.

Focusing on what’s important
An early diagnosis allows the person to set priorities based on what is important to them, such as travelling, pursuing new goals, or deciding when to stop working.

Making choices is empowering
An early diagnosis allows the person with dementia to make informed decisions about legal, financial and care matters and make their wishes known to their family and friends.

Taking advantage of resources
The person and their family can benefit from local Alzheimer Society information, support and education programs to learn how to live well with dementia.

Supporting families
Families who understand the disease and the challenges that come with its progression are better able to support the person with dementia and get the help that’s best for them.

Advocating
People with dementia can make their voices heard to raise awareness about the disease, the need for quality care and increased funding for research.

Advancing research
People with dementia can participate in clinical trials and other research to help improve diagnosis and enhance care.

Reducing stigma
People with dementia can continue to live life to the fullest. Sharing experiences of living with dementia can be very helpful in reducing the stigma of the disease and in encouraging others to reach out for support.

The Alzheimer Society of Canada acknowledges the Alzheimer’s & Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin for their website content, which has been modified with permission.

As many as 50 per cent of Canadians with dementia are not diagnosed early enough,* losing precious time when care and support can make a tremendous difference in their quality of life and help to avert unnecessary crises for their families. That’s why during Alzheimer Awareness Month, the Alzheimer Society is promoting the benefits of early diagnosis.

But fear and stigma continue to be huge barriers to seeking help. In a recent Nanos survey, 60 per cent of Canadians polled said it would be harder to disclose if they, or someone close to them, had Alzheimer’s disease compared to other diseases because of the social stigma associated with mental health issues.

Earlier diagnosis opens the door to important information, resources and support through the Alzheimer Society, which help people with dementia focus on their abilities to remain independent in their homes and communities longer. With early diagnosis, people can access medications that, although not effective for everyone, have the greatest impact when taken early. On a practical level, an early diagnosis gives someone the chance to explain the changes happening in their life to family and friends and allows families to plan ahead.

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“Nova Scotia has a rapidly aging population, which is one of the main risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s disease. Chances are that most of us will or may already know someone who is living with dementia.” Said Lloyd Brown, Executive Director of the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia, “Getting a diagnosis of dementia can be devastating, but also provides an opportunity to plan for the future, set realistic expectations and enjoy the meaningful and productive years ahead.”

Throughout January, Canadians are encouraged to visit the Alzheimer Society’s campaign website , to learn how to spot the signs of dementia, understand the benefits of a diagnosis and prepare for a doctor’s visit. This year’s awareness campaign is proudly supported by the KPMG Foundation.

*Bradford, A. (2009). Missed and delayed diagnosis of dementia in primary care: Prevalence and contributing factors. Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders. Retrieved from www.alzheimerjournal.com, October-December 2009.

Dementia: ten things you should know

Changes in a person in the early stages of dementia can sometimes be mistaken for normal aging. How often have you misplaced your car keys or walked into a grocery store and forgotten what to buy? Memory lapses are common as we age, but when memory loss begins to impact our daily lives, it could be the early signs of dementia. Ignoring these signs often leads to people not being diagnosed for months, even years. An early diagnosis allows you to know what you’re dealing with and make important decisions with the right information so you can live well with dementia.

Take 10 minutes to learn these 10 signs:

 Memory loss – having trouble remembering recent events or retaining new information
 Difficulty doing day-to-day tasks – forgetting how to write a cheque or cooking a familiar recipe
 Language problems – finding the right words or using them inappropriately Disorientation – getting lost in your own neighbourhood or not knowing the time
of the day
 Poor or decreased judgment – wearing light clothing in freezing weather
 Difficulty with abstract thinking – struggling to perform mental tasks like adding numbers
 Misplacing things – putting the ice cube tray in the oven instead of the freezer
 Changes in behaviour – exhibiting severe mood swings for no apparent reason
 Changes in personality – becoming unusually depressed, suspicious, or anxious
 Loss of initiative – withdrawing from friends and family and losing interest in favourite activities

If you’re concerned about any of these signs for yourself or someone you care about, see your doctor. And remember, there is a great deal that you can do to live a fulfilling life after diagnosis. The Alzheimer Society can help.

Find out more: www.earlydiagnosis.ca

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