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DEMENTIA: Quick Facts and Ways of Caring

What is dementia?

Dementia is a general term describing symptoms that impact memory, cognitive function, and the ability to perform everyday activities. As it progresses, the symptoms of dementia worsen over time. Despite advances in technology and care, dementia is yet to have a cure.

Prevalence

Dementia is projected to affect close to 1 million people in Canada by 2030[1]. Based on statistical records and current evidence, the percentage of people having dementia will only increase.

Previously, dementia was mostly affecting older adults but there are now an increasing number of younger people suffering from dementia as well. Early-onset or young-onset dementia is an uncommon yet increasing form of dementia that affects individuals younger than 65 years old[2].

Challenges

Regardless of the onset age, people affected by dementia along with their family face several challenges that can be hard to cope with, without a strong network of support system.

It is therefore crucial to be well-informed of the factors that may contribute to the development and worsening of the symptoms of dementia. Equally important is knowing the resources available that could help in ensuring safe, comfortable, and sustainable living for both the person and family affected by dementia.

Risk factors that contribute to a person’s increased likelihood in developing dementia vary1. Below are a few examples of risk factors that can be changed (modifiable) and those that cannot be changed (non-modifiable):

Modifiable Risk FactorsNon-Modifiable Risk Factors
High Blood Pressure
With a well-balanced diet, appropriate exercise, and changes to lifestyle, blood pressure can be controlled.

Smoking
Linked to a lot of diseases and complications, smoking does not only cause respiratory, cardiac and cancer problems but can also cause dementia.

Social Isolation
Being socially isolated increases the risk of having dementia along with other health concerns such as depression and heart disease.
Age
As the primary risk factor for dementia, the older you get, the higher is the risk. However, please note that dementia is NOT a normal part of ageing.

Genetics
Although the correlation between genes and dementia is not yet fully understood, some genetic factor may aid in dementia development.

Other Medical Conditions
Some medical conditions can increase the likelihood of developing dementia such as Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis.

Prevention and Management

Although yet to have a cure, there are ways to prevent the development and manage the worsening of dementia symptoms. It starts with having or maintaining a healthy lifestyle, starting with[3],[4]:

Staying Active

Regular exercise supports your overall health and well-being. It has shown to prevent heart disease, diabetes, and other forms of chronic conditions which could contribute to the development of dementia.

For some seniors, being physically active could be challenging and a safety risk. The key is to ensure that you are exercising or staying physically active within your physical and medical capacity. Having a companion when exercising or staying physically active ensures your safety throughout.

Have Social Engagements

Engaging in social activities support mental health and wellbeing. Social isolation and loneliness are factors that could lead to dementia and poor health outcomes, as studies and our lived experiences during COVID-19 have highlighted.

There are different ways to stay socially active such as volunteering for a cause you are passionate with, having tea or activities with friends, correspondence with people around you, or joining a support or social group. For individuals hindered by medical conditions and must stay indoors, community resources are available that could help you in staying socially active.

Well-balanced Diet

Healthy and balanced eating sounds easy and a given but this can be a struggle for individuals living alone or unable to prepare home-cooked, fresh and nutritious meals. We all know that a well-balanced diet has many benefits in our overall health.

Being supported from grocery shopping to food preparation and cooking helps in making healthy food choices and intake. Having this option avoids resorting to eating too salty, too greasy, and unhealthy meals that contribute to and worsen dementia symptoms and other health ailments.

Having dementia and caring for a person with dementia can be really challenging. You are not alone. Reach out to community resources or to your AllCare team to find out of ways on how you or your loved one can be supported safely and with dignity.


[1] Dementia numbers in Canada | Alzheimer Society of Canada

[2] Young-onset Alzheimer’s: When symptoms begin before age 65 – Mayo Clinic

[3] Dementia: Risk factors and prevention – Canada.ca

[4] Brain-healthy tips to reduce your risk of dementia | Alzheimer Society of Canada

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