News

Alzheimer’s awareness low, states survey

District 69 Baby Boomers, like those across the country, lack awareness about Alzheimer’s disease according to a recent survey.

“The gap in awareness in B.C. is sounding alarm bells as to whether our largest population is prepared for the rising tide of dementia that is ahead,” said Jane Hope, the local support and education co-ordinator for the non-profit Alzheimer Society of B.C.

She said it was troubling to see in the national online poll that respondents were unfamiliar with controllable risk factors associated with the disease, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and chronic depression.

“Awareness and education are the cornerstones for risk reduction particularly since there is yet no cure or treatment to stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” Hope said.

“People need to take care of their brain health. We need to work together to support those who are already on the dementia journey and to find the causes and cure for this devastating disease.”

The survey was released to kick off January as national Alzheimer Awareness Month. Among the findings, 24 per cent of B.C. baby boomers can’t name any of the early signs of Alzheimer’s.

Hope said this is worrisome because the risk level for Boomers doubles every five years after age 65 and Boomers make up almost 30 per cent of the population.

Changes in the brain can begin to appear decades before diagnosis and progression can last between seven and 10 years. Eventually, the person affected will require 24-hour care and supervision. Age is the single biggest risk factor, but the disease can also strike as early as 40.

Less than half of those surveyed in B.C. could identify later-stage symptoms other than memory loss.

“This indicates a general lack of awareness of life-altering changes such as hallucinations and complete dependency on others for basic care,” Hope said.

People can test their own knowledge by doing the survey at  www.alzheimerbc.org/testyourknowledge.aspx.

“We need everyone, especially those 40 and older, to learn about Alzheimer’s disease, know the warning signs, and reduce their risk by making simple lifestyle changes.” 

Each of the related dementias has unique aspects but all share common symptoms: gradual and ongoing decline of short- and long-term memory, changes in language abilities, mood and behaviour, judgment and reasoning, making it impossible over time to perform simple tasks. 

The annual Investors Walk for Memories takes place at Nanaimo’s Bowen Park, Sun., Jan. 30 in support of the society.   Volunteers and walkers are needed. Get details and register at www.walkformemories.com or call 1-800-667-3742.

The society runs local support and information groups with practical tips, a supportive environment, and a chance to learn from, and share with, others in similar circumstances.

For more, contact Hope at 1-800-462-2833 or  jhope@alzheimerbc.org, or visit the website at www.alzheimerbc.org .

Watch The News for more details on local people dealing with Alzheimer’s.

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