Thunder Bay, ON, June 11, 2010 – Can’t remember what car keys are for? Confusing the clutch for the steering wheel? Driving around going nowhere? Most people understand these to be signs of dementia. But short memory loss is not always the first symptom. Subtle changes in personality such as increasing apathy, irritability, or struggling to get dressed can also signal the beginning of dementia that if recognized early, can lead to treatment.
Learn the signs. Act in time. During Senior’s Month, that’s what the Alzheimer Society of Thunder Bay wants the public to do as it launches its online Early Detection Checklist, a new resource to familiarize the public with the lesser known signs of dementia, keep track of these and consult their doctor sooner rather than later.
The checklist is part of the Society’s ongoing initiative to take the stigma out of dementia and encourage people to be more pro-active about early warning signs. “A diagnosis is hard news, but it’s also a good motivator to take action,’ says Alison Denton, Executive Director, Alzheimer Society of Thunder Bay. “Once diagnosis is confirmed, you can start to benefit from the resources that are available. Too often, someone will feel something’s wrong but out of fear, denial or not knowing, will turn a blind eye.”
Getting a proper diagnosis is a point Dr. Trevor Bon can’t stress enough. The expert in geriatrics explains that a family physician should first rule out treatable illnesses such as depression or other medical conditions that sometimes mimic or contribute to dementia symptoms. “A correct diagnosis is key and the earlier the diagnosis, the sooner treatment can begin,” Dr. Bon says. “Detection also gives patients a great sense of relief and empowers them to get on with important health-care decisions.”
The Early Detection Checklist is based on research (“Assessing Patients Complaining of Memory Impairment”) on improving early detection conducted by Dr. Sandra Black, and Dr. Mario Masellis, both of whom specialize in neurology and research at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences in Toronto. The easy-to-use list helps anyone who has concerns about their own or a family member’s brain health to monitor telltale signs. The completed list is intended to be taken to their family doctor as a discussion-starter. Accurate reporting of changes in behavior, personality or mood helps to reach an accurate assessment or points to the need for further consultation with a neurologist or other specialist. The list is downloadable at www.alzheimerthunderbay.ca
Only half of dementia cases today are diagnosed. With a projected increase of 40% in the number of Ontarians with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia over the next 20 years, the need for early diagnosis and intervention is pressing. There are many benefits of early identification such as prolonging quality of life and independence. Most importantly, the person with the disease can be part of the solution and help their family make tough but vital decisions about their future.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. It is a chronic degenerative disease that robs people of their memory and prevents them from doing day-to-day tasks such as cooking, bathing, performing at work, managing finances and maintaining social relationships. It is not a normal part of aging and remains incurable. Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t just affect older people but also strikes people in their 40s and 50s and takes a huge toll on families.
About 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 the Thunder Bay District 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.