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First wave of baby boomers turning 65 not ready for Alzheimer’s

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Thunder Bay, ON,  ----   January 4, 2011   ----  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 that an astonishing 23 per cent 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 per cent identified memory loss as a key symptom, but failed to mention other critical signs.

“This is an insidious disease. Most people associate memory loss with Alzheimer’s but it’s so much more. Sudden changes in mood, misplacing common household items (like keys in the refrigerator), repeating words or statements or difficulty with everyday tasks like getting dressed can all be warning signs that need to be discussed with a doctor.  Boomers can take steps to protect themselves from Alzheimer’s disease,” says Jason Paul Rasevych, Marketing & Communications Officer, Alzheimer Society of Thunder Bay.

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.

Today’s 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.

In the case of local Bill Heibein he started noticing changes in his job as an accountant – missing meetings, forgetting names and losing his train of thought.  When Bill was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s he was 55 years old and told he could expect maybe five good years left.  He sought on-going treatment, opened up to friends about his condition and reached out to the Alzheimer Society for information and support.  More than a decade since being diagnosed, Bill is still busy raising, training, and showing horses, running Amethyst Farms, and playing the bass in the popular local band the Bottom of the Barrel. “I have strong support around me, I feel like a lucky man,” says Heibein.

During Alzheimer Awareness Month, the Alzheimer Society is asking Canadians to test their own knowledge by taking the survey at www.alzheimer.ca/testyourknowledge. The Society also urges Canadians, especially those 40 and older, to practice 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.

About Alzheimer’s disease

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 can also strike as early as 40.

About the survey

More than 1,000 Canadians aged 45 to 65 completed the survey in July 2010. Men and women were split evenly. Of those surveyed, 37 per cent had some personal connection to the disease. None were affiliated with the Alzheimer Society in any way, nor have they or a family member donated to or used any of the Society’s programs and services. 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

 

About the Alzheimer Society of Thunder Bay

Founded in 1986, the Alzheimer Society of Thunder Bay is a charitable organization dedicated to alleviating the personal and social consequences of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. The Society offers support to people with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers; provides public education; promotes awareness in the community and funds research. Over 3,200 people in Northwestern Ontario that are currently living with dementia, and this number is expected to double within a generation. The Society depends on local support and donations, as the demand for our services continues to grow.

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