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Alzheimer survey reveals alarming knowledge gap among ‘boomers’

An online survey of “baby boomers” across Canada conducted by the Alzheimer Society reveals a worrying lack of awareness about Alzheimer’s disease.

Survey results show an astonishing 23 percent of “boomers” can’t name any of the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease—even though their risk doubles every five years after age 65.

Of those surveyed, 50 percent identified memory loss as a key symptom, but failed to mention other critical signs.

“‘Boomers’ can take steps to protect themselves from Alzheimer’s disease,” said Lynn Moffatt, executive director of the Alzheimer Society of Kenora/Rainy River District.

Most “boomers” are familiar with the common hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease of not recognizing familiar faces and objects. But less than half know about life-altering changes, such as hallucinations or total dependency on others for basic care, that occur in the disease’s later stages.

More troubling, respondents are unaware that diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and chronic depression significantly increase their odds for developing the disease.

The findings confirm a disturbing lack of knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease among “boomers,” the country’s largest demographic group, who will become increasingly at risk as they age.

But the reasons for self-awareness and prevention have never been more compelling.

Without a cure or drugs to stop the disease, Alzheimer’s is destined to be the most pressing and costly health issue “boomers” will face in their lifetime: either they will get the disease themselves or be faced with caring for someone with the disease.

The Society also urges Canadians, especially those 40 and older, to practise prevention by learning the risks and making simple lifestyle changes: eat a heart-healthy diet, stay active, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, and monitor their blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

The Alzheimer Society of Kenora/Rainy River District is increasing education, support, and services to support this growing number of people affected with Alzheimer.

“We have implemented a ‘First Link’ program, which is a partnership with health organizations to refer individuals as soon as they are diagnosed with Alzheimer to our society,” said Moffatt.

“We will provide education, support, and link them to a number of community supports early on in their Alzheimer journey” she explained.

“This was a piece that was missing from the puzzle in the past.”

The “First Link” program is funded under the province’s Aging at Home Strategy, Moffatt noted.

In related news, the Alzheimer Society will be holding its annual “Chefs’ Charitable Dinner” on Sunday, Feb. 6 at the Adventure Inn in support of Alzheimer Awareness Month.

Tickets can be purchased at the Adventure Inn, Emo Inn, and Lee Garden, or by calling 1-800-682-0245.

We also will be selling hot chocolate cones filled with powered hot chocolate, chocolate chips, and marshmallows.

These are to promote brain health.

Each cone costs $5, with all proceeds to support the Alzheimer Society of Kenora/Rainy River District.

You can order your hot chocolate cones by calling 1-800-682-0245.

Alzheimer’s disease is the leading form of dementia. It is a fatal progressive disease of the brain that robs memory and steals the ability to reason, communicate, and perform daily tasks.

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 also can strike as early as 40.

More than 1,000 Canadians aged 45-65 completed the survey in July. Men and women were split evenly.

Of those surveyed, 37 percent had some personal connection to the disease.

“Boomers” were tested in three areas: early signs of Alzheimer’s disease (unaided and aided awareness), later-stage symptoms (aided), and key risk factors (aided).

To read the results, visit www.alzheimer.ca/testyourknowledge

The Alzheimer Society of Kenora/Rainy River Districts aims to improve the quality of life of individuals who are affected or who may become affected by Alzheimer’s Disease or a related dementia, and their caregivers.

Help for today is provided through family support and education programs that include one-to-one and family support, group support sessions, and outreach programs such as caregiver respite, public awareness, and advocacy.

Hope for tomorrow is provided by supporting ongoing research towards advances in detection, diagnosis, treatment, and a cure.

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