Dementia (Part One)

By April 17, 2013Guest Columns, Issues

By George Evens. The Elder Citizen Action Coalition, believe “Dementia may be the most significant social and health crisis of the 21st Century”

Roughly 14.9% of Canadians, approximately 747,000 family members, 65 years and older suffer with cognitive impairment, including Dementia. Globally, that translates into 35.6 million people which is greater than the total population of Canada. Rather frightening statistics but sadly unless some cure is found experts estimate dementia stands to double every 20 years which would be beyond catastrophic.

Dementia is not selective and anyone (reading this article, for example) can be stricken, regardless of walks of life or economic status. The once powerful Ralph Kline, Alberta Premier, just died of dementia, a mere shadow of himself, the man, at age 70 years. A hero to some and foe to others, “King Ralph” angered as many as he pleased with “cut backs to employment” and getting Alberta on a strong economic foothold, of sorts for a time. But when illness beckoned, Dementia won. So, too, can we all fall prey to this indiscriminate brain disorder. Thus, in a quest for self-preservation alone, every (Politician) ought to devote some energy and resources to finding a cure, to benefit mankind and less preoccupation with achieving (power) at any cost.

Dementia like symptoms include depression, infections or drug interactions, thyroid disease but early diagnosis is essential, in particular if caused by dementia can mean early treatment. Sometimes, similar symptoms like (sudden) onset of memory loss or difficulties with speech and movement or early behavior changes may point to another type of dementia than Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia is an umbrella term, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common form, accounting for an estimated 64 percent. A variety of brain disorders with symptoms ranging from changes in mood and behavior, judgment and reasoning, loss of memory manifest and reduce a person’s ability to function in all walks of life. Just performing familiar tasks become harder and a (gradual) onset of memory loss ensues.

It is estimated today, the combined cost of medical & lost earnings of dementia exceed $33 billion per year. Thus, today one in five Canadians 45 years and older provides some form of care to Seniors’ with long term health issues. Indeed, one quarter of family caregivers are in fact Seniors’, with a third themselves, over 75 years of age.

A dramatic impact and both physical & psychological toll on (family) caregivers can become imminent, with an estimated 60%+ themselves developing psychological illnesses and upwards to 33 percent suffering from depression.

My word, what to do, as the silver tsunami of baby boomers have reached 65 years of age. Upwards of 10% of dementia cases start before age 65 years. Alzheimer’s disease has the current potential to overwhelm families and become the most drastic social & health catastrophe of the 21st Century.

Canada lacks sufficient education, care and service delivery, adequate research & training funding and is remiss to develop a National Dementia strategy. The Canadian Government, politicians at all levels of Government, need to band together to create and acknowledge awareness of the vast complications and needs Canadians face, to encourage a serious in-depth review of all other Countries who have developed and implemented a strategy
The Elder Citizen Action Coalition (ECAC) will continue to discuss early signs & detection, diagnosis, understanding some behavior in our next column.

Cover Art: The Scream by Edvard Munch

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