Sept. 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day.
Alzheimer societies across the world continue to raise awareness, reduce stigma and encourage communities to address health concerns of this progressive brain disorder.
These organizations play an important role in supporting and educating people living with dementia and their care partners.
A landmark study released by Alzheimer Society Canada in September 2022 shows dementia will continue to be a growing issue in Canada. The number of people living with dementia is expected to triple over the next 30 years.
Across this country over 600,000 people are living with Alzheimer disease or related dementias. Families, friends and communities are also impacted by the cognitive decline and loss of functional abilities that can occur. As the number of people impacted by this disease grows, so will the number of care partners and families trying to manage care and help people live well with dementia.
Caregiving is stressful and we need to stop taking our care partners for granted. We must recognize the countless unpaid valuable hours they provide daily. Care partners are family members, neighbours or friends providing ongoing care to a person needing support. The age of our current group of care partners is usually 45 to 65 years old, when people expect to be planning for their own healthy retirement.
They may be coping with their own health concerns or worse, ignoring their health and wellness as they navigate the journey of dementia with their loved one.
Some are seniors themselves, spouses looking after one another in their 80s or 90s. Occasionally caregiving falls to a 35 or younger population. These are pivotal years and caregiving may impact relationships, raising young children and career goals.
At present there is no cure for dementia. Provinces with higher growth rates, including B.C., Ontario and Alberta, will see a faster increase of people living with dementia.
What can we do?
We all have a role to play in improving and finding the best path forward. We need to grow support services to fill gaps in our care for seniors. We must advocate for collaboration between organizations to engage people living with dementia and their care partners. Each of us can aim to support care partners in our respective communities.
We can learn more about Alzheimer disease and related dementia. We can be an advocate for a dementia friendly community, by being knowledgeable about our local societies, the work they do and services they offer.
It is time for us to look at our own brain health and take steps to live a full life while keeping brain health a priority.
Ask yourself, do you include physical activity in your daily routine? Can you follow a healthy diet and lifestyle to maximize your brain health? Do you prioritize sleep, reduce stress and manage medical conditions?
The study flags many areas for growth across municipal, provincial, territorial and federal governments. Investments need to be increased for research programs. Cash needs to flow for increased homecare and social support.
We hear the need for people to age well at home in their own communities. This is only possible if brain health is made a priority. There is a growing need to have teams trained in dementia care to support our aging population.
For more information on the landmark study visit alzheimer.ca/ns/en/landmark.
The Alzheimer Society is Canada’s leading nationwide health charity for people living with Alzheimer disease and other dementias.
Active in communities across Canada, the society offers help for today through programs and services for people living with dementia and hope for tomorrow by funding research to find the cause and the cure.
This September take a moment to learn about the services and volunteer opportunities available in your community and take one small step forward to improve your brain health for tomorrow.
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Elaine Griffin is a registered nurse and psychogeriatric resource consultant for the Alzheimer Society of Dufferin County.
The “Open Mind” column is sponsored by community partners who are committed to raising awareness about mental health, reducing stigma and providing information about resources that can help. For local mental health resources/information, visit www.mdsgg.ca or call 1-844-HERE247.