Alzheimer’s and Dementia Information Session

On Friday, the Alzheimer Society of Sault Ste Marie and Algoma District hosted an Alzheimer’s and Dementia information session at the James L. McIntyre Centennial Library.
Janice Seppala (RSSW) ran the event. She made a career change in her fifties after taking care of her mother with Alzheimer’s.
As the baby boomers age, the percentage of people affected by Alzheimer’s is rapidly increasing. The first of the boomers hit age 65 back in 2011. Turning 65 is when the chance of dementia skyrockets.
There are a half-million people over 65 suffering from dementia. An additional 71,000 under 65 and 50,000 under 60 are affected. In the next 25 years, the number of people with dementia will rise to over one million.
A major issue is that we don’t know about everyone affected because some are in the early stages or it goes unreported. People can have dementia for 2-to-20 years, with the average being 8-to-12 years.
Almost everyone knows someone with dementia. One in eleven people has dementia over 65. Half of the people over 85 suffer from dementia. For every person with dementia, it impacts 10-to-12 others.
Women make up 72% of Canadians with Alzheimer’s. Researchers are trying to see if there is a link between Alzheimer’s and estrogen. So far, there is no concrete proof of a connection. One connection we know is that anaesthesia can bring on dementia five years faster!
An astounding 90% of people with Down Syndrome develop Alzheimer’s in their forties and fifties. Scientists are unsure of the connection between Down Syndrome and Alzheimer’s.
We spend $15 billion a year on Alzheimer’s in Canada. It is the third-largest healthcare expense.
Janice started her presentation by showing ten objects. Halfway through the session, she asked us to remember them. Most people could only remember a few but that doesn’t mean we all have dementia. It’s normal to not remember everything.
One important point that Janice told the crowd was there’s a difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Dementia is a set of symptoms and not a disease. Over 400 different diseases include dementia. It includes a loss of memory, understanding, and judgement. Dementia can be reversed. For example, depression can cause dementia. If they treat the depression, the dementia will reverse.
Alzheimer’s is a disease of the brain and the most common form of dementia. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease and people don’t get better. Their symptoms only get worse as it destroys brain cells. The brain can shrink up to a ⅓ of its size.
The disease affects the ability to think, remember, speak, and perform daily tasks. Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of the ageing process.
It is not a hereditary disease. However, there is a 5% increased chance if family members have it such as your parents or grandparents.
Our three-pound brain controls the whole body. When Alzheimer’s begins, it can affect multiple bodily functions.
About 50% of people know of changes happening to their memory. They will stop doing the things they used to enjoy. For example, instead of going to a favourite restaurant, they want to stay home for dinner because “it is easier.”
A big sign is mood swings. One minute someone is laughing and switches to crying with sadness.
As you age, be on the watch for the following warning signs:
  • Memory loss affecting daily functioning
  • Difficulty performing routine tasks
  • Problems with language
  • Disorientation of time and place
  • Poor or decreased judgement
  • Problems with abstract thinking
  • Misplacing things
  • Changes in mood and behaviour
  • Changes in personality
  • Loss of initiative
Janice gave several examples of things her mother did. One day her mom gave away all her clothes to charity. She wrote a $50,000 cheque to a Christian charity without having the $50,000 in her bank account.
Caregivers have a difficult time doing work and looking after a loved one suffering from this horrible disease. The stress of being a caregiver can cause dementia. Janice’s employer fired her because she spent “too much time with family.”
People need to be aware of scammers. There are plenty of unscrupulous companies falsely claiming that Keto and Paleo diets can cure Alzheimer’s. It is a complete scam with zero scientific evidence.
Action Steps
There are things we can do to decrease our chances of developing dementia.
We can take a daily 30-minute walk that grows the hippocampus. A larger hippocampus delays the onset of dementia.
We can eat Turmeric, which is a spice. An Indian village who eats Turmeric three times per day has the lowest Alzheimer’s rate in the world. If you don’t like the taste of Turmeric, you can purchase Turmeric pills.
Keep educating yourself. Well-educated people have a lower risk of developing Dementia because their brains created more neural connections. Learn new things that stimulate your mind.
Stimulate your brain, such as by walking different routes to a destination. Seeing different things will stimulate your brain.
Another thing Janice suggested was that each year OHIP pays for a 30-minute pharmacist appointment to go over all the medications a person is prescribed. It is possible that drug interactions could cause symptoms of dementia.
For more information, please contact the Alzheimer Society of Sault Ste Marie and Algoma District or call 705-942-2195.
Medical Information Not Verified. Please visit your doctor.