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Let’s talk about Alzheimer’s

Destigmatizing dementia
By Dr. Rhonda Collins

Revera was the first company in the Canadian senior living sector to appoint a Chief Medical Officer. In her blog series, Dr. Rhonda Collins offers helpful advice for seniors to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.


September 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day and I can think of nothing more important than raising awareness about Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias. The message of this year’s campaign through Alzheimer’s Disease International is, “Let’s Talk About Dementia”. Talking about dementia helps improve knowledge and understanding and helps to reduce beliefs and assumptions that are untrue. Inaccurate beliefs can lead to stereotypes and stigma.

The first thing to understand is that dementia is not a disease but refers to a group of symptoms that occur when changes in the brain affecting memory, thinking and communication are severe enough to interfere with the ability to do day to day tasks like banking, cooking, shopping and managing medications. Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common, but it is just one of many types of dementia.
“Many people living with dementia become isolated because they are fearful of how others will respond.”

Currently there are over 50 million people around the world living with dementia and that is predicted to triple, rising to 152 million by 2050. Someone in the world develops dementia every 3 seconds. There are certain types of dementia that can be treated, which is one reason it is important to seek help as soon as symptoms are identified. Physicians that specialize in dementia can order tests necessary to determine if there is a treatable condition causing dementia symptoms.

While there is no cure currently, early recognition of signs and symptoms of dementia allow earlier access to resources in the community and medications that can help with the symptoms. This can help the person living with dementia live a rich and rewarding life. Their ability to enjoy their life also depends on the way they are treated by others. Many people living with dementia become isolated because they are fearful of how others will respond. This is why destigmatizing dementia is so important.

Some of the signs and symptoms for dementia include:

  • Forgetting things like names, places, appointments or conversations
  • Forgetting how to do something routine, like banking, making a meal, doing the laundry
  • Problems with language – forgetting words or substituting words that don’t fit the context
  • Not knowing what day of the week it is or getting lost in a familiar place
  • Using poor judgement, like not wearing the right clothing for the weather
  • Putting items in strange places, like milk in the cupboard and sugar in the fridge
  • Exhibiting mood swings or strange behaviour like paranoia, hearing voices or seeing strange things
  • Losing interest in friends, family or activities that used to be enjoyable

If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these, please see your family doctor or primary care provider. Ask lots of questions. Seek information from resources in your community like your local Alzheimer’s Society. Talk to other people living with dementia. Learn as much as you can because the more you know, the better prepared you are. Let’s reduce the stigma. Let’s talk about dementia.

Rhonda Collins
By Dr. Rhonda Collins
Dr. Rhonda Collins brings passion and expertise in memory care, dementia, falls prevention and clinical quality improvement to the role of Revera’s Chief Medical Officer. Dr. Collins is a family physician with a certificate of added competence in Care of the Elderly from the College of Family Physicians of Canada.