Dementia Knowledge, Five Ways to Improve

Bill Gates recently announced that he’s donating $100 Million to research into Dementia.

In a blog post published on November 13, Gates announced that he’d be donating $50 Million of his own money to the UK- based Dementia Discovery Fund.  He said that he will be donating another $50 Million to smaller startups researching the disease.

Today there are 564,000 Canadians living with dementia at a cost of $10.4 Billion each year.    And the numbers will continue to escalate as the population ages.  Nearly 1 million Canadians are expected to have dementia within 15 years.

With the growing numbers, most of us have been personally touched by someone with dementia – a parent or grandparent, a neighbour or a colleague.  Without the financial resources of Bill Gates, how can we do our part to advance the understanding of such a wide-spread condition?  And what can we do with the resources that are available?

Bruce Mahony, Managing Director of Home Instead Senior Care in Toronto believes that it all begins with education and knowledge.  “The first thing children and families can do is to beef up their knowledge of what dementia and Alzheimer’s are, and how they can help their loved ones improve the quality of their lives, and in some cases reduce the risk factors”.

Here are five ways to improve your knowledge of dementia.

  1. What’s the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia?

Dementia describes a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning, according to the Mayo Clinic.  Dementia is an umbrella disease that includes several types – valcular, Lewy Body, Mixed, Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal.  Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia for people over 65.

  1. What are the symptoms of dementia?

The most common symptoms are memory loss that disrupts daily life, confusion with time and place, trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships, decreased or poor judgment, changes in mood or personality and problems with speaking and writing.

  1. Is dementia hereditary?

The majority of dementia is not inherited, but this depends upon the particular cause of dementia.  Some rare causes of dementia are very clearly inherited, for example Huntington’s disease.

Many people fear that Alzheimer’s disease in the family may be passed on to children and grandchildren.  According to the Alzheimer’s Society UK, in the vast majority (99 percent) of cases, it is not so.

  1. Who is at Risk of getting dementia?

Dementia is not an inevitable consequence of ageing according to medical journal The Lancet which released a paper in July 2017 entitled “Dementia prevention, intervention and care”.  The study shows one in three cases could be prevented or delayed if people took better care of their brains.

The Lancet study identifies nine potentially modifiable health and lifestyle factors that if eliminated might prevent dementia.  They are:

  • Midlife hearing loss
  • Failing to complete secondary (high school and above education
  • Smoking
  • Failing to seek early treatment for depression
  • Physical inactivity
  • Social isolation
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Type 2 Diabetes.
  1. What can be done to reduce the risks of dementia?

Dr. Anotine Hakin, emeritus professor of neurology at the University of Ottawa offers hopeful advice in his new book Save Your Mind: Seven Rules to Avoid Dementia.  Read. Write. Play music. Be physically active. Be socially engaged. Eat healthy food. Maintain a healthy weight. Sleep well.  Don’t sit mindlessly in front of the TV.

A few simple lifestyle changes

“While this advice sounds simple, it’s surprising how many people ignore what has now been proven in the research,” adds Bruce Mahony of Home Instead.  “I think that these new findings are particularly relevant for young and mid-aged Canadians who have seen the damaging effects of dementia on their loved ones.  There is now hope that dementia can be delayed or avoided with a few simple lifestyle changes.  That’s news in itself”.

Home Instead Senior Care offers a series of resources free of charge to help families understand and cope with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  They include Access the Daily Companion care app; 24/7 Care line can be accessed at 1 800 939 1533; and online help for; and