Itâ€™s a devastating disease that destroys not only its direct victims, but wreaks havoc on entire families.
Itâ€™s progress is often slow and always relentless, eventually leaving caregivers to watch helplessly as loved ones turn into shells of their former selves â€“ personalities and memories fade into oblivion, often with episodes of confused, violent behaviour accompanying the heart-wrenching metamorphosis.
Despite the best efforts of researchers â€“ Canada is an international leader in the field â€“ only modest gains have been made in understanding Alzheimerâ€™s disease and related dementias. While there are now treatments that can slow or delay the diseaseâ€™s destructive progress, there is neither a cure nor even a clear road towards a cure.
There are up to 70,000 British Columbians â€“ and their families â€“ living with Alzheimerâ€™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 â€“ a chance to share information and increase awareness about the degenerative disease.
Because symptoms of Alzheimerâ€™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 â€“ and services available â€“ 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 Alzheimerâ€™s disease. See our story, Charity walk honours caregivers, on page A8 for more about the walk.