A national survey recently released by the Alzheimer Society of Canada shows that Alzheimer’s disease and related types of dementia impact an increasing number of people every year – and most of us have no idea what to watch for, or what to do about it.
The survey interviewed almost 1,000 people living with a form of dementia, and highlighted that many people delayed talking to their doctor when they first suspected something was wrong because they didn’t recognize the warning signs: “Almost half of respondents (44 per cent) waited at least a year to see a doctor because they thought their symptoms were simply ‘old age’.“
Warning signs of dementia
Dementia is an umbrella term that describes a number of diseases including Alzheimer’s disease – the most common form – vascular dementia, and Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). Risk of dementia increases with age, and while people in their 30s and 40s have been diagnosed it more typically affects those over the age of 65.
While symptoms can vary from one person to another, the Alzheimer Society of Ontario offers a list of 10 warning signs. The three most commonly identified symptoms include:
- Memory loss that affects day-to-day function. We all forget appointments and minor details. Memory loss should become a concern when it begins to impact an individual’s daily routine.
- Disorientation of time and place. As with memory loss, it’s normal to momentarily feel disoriented – forgetting why you walked to a particular room, for example. The Alzheimer Society notes that it is significant disorientation that may be a warning sign. For example, “a person with Alzheimer’s disease can become lost on their own street, not knowing how they got there or how to get home.”
- Changes in personality. The Alzheimer Society notes that personalities change as people age, but those with dementia may become uncharacteristically withdrawn, suspicious or confused.
What to do if you think it might be dementia
There is currently no cure for diseases like Alzheimer’s, but there are ways to treat and manage the disease. Also, despite the list of warning signs, many of the same symptoms can be traced back to depression, medications, or other treatable causes. Only a professional can help make this distinction and create an effective treatment plan.
If you’re concerned about yourself or a loved one, a family doctor can play a critical role in helping to get a proper diagnosis; nearly half of survey respondents were diagnosed by their family doctor.
Stevenson, Waplak & Associates also offers dementia screening through our office in Belleville. Please contact us if you would like more information.
To learn more about Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and the resources available in your community, the Alzheimer Society has 150 offices located across the country – with 38 in Ontario – that can provide information and support.