Our View: Disease grows as victims fade

It’s a devastating disease that destroys not only its direct victims, but wreaks havoc on entire families.

It’s progress is often slow and always relentless, eventually leaving caregivers to watch helplessly as loved ones turn into shells of their former selves – personalities and memories fade into oblivion, often with episodes of confused, violent behaviour accompanying the heart-wrenching metamorphosis.

Despite the best efforts of researchers – Canada is an international leader in the field – only modest gains have been made in understanding Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. While there are now treatments that can slow or delay the disease’s destructive progress, there is neither a cure nor even a clear road towards a cure.

There are up to 70,000 British Columbians – and their families – living with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias, and as the baby-boomer population continues to age, that number is expected to grow at an increasing rate.

The situation is not unique to B.C. The problem is global, and is considered a developing epidemic by many.

January is Alzheimer Awareness Month – a chance to share information and increase awareness about the degenerative disease.

Because symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia can vary greatly among patients and can progress very slowly, it is often a confusing and painful time for the patient, their family, and their friends. Awareness of the symptoms – and services available – makes it a little easier to support those diagnosed with the disease to remain active and effective members of their families and their communities.

Provincial officials offer more information at: www.gov.bc.ca/connect.

Locally, the annual Walk for Memories is an opportunity for victims, caregivers, and families to offer each other emotional support, and to raise money to fight Alzheimer’s disease. See our story, Charity walk honours caregivers, on page A8 for more about the walk.

– B.G.

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