Today marks the beginning of World Alzheimer’s Month.
In Manitoba, there are more than 23,000 people who have dementia. This number is rapidly growing and by 2038 it is expected to reach more than 40,700, according to the Alzheimer’s Society of Manitoba.
Even more startling is that 62 per cent of Manitobans are impacted by dementia because they have a family member or close friend with the disease.
Eighty-six per cent of Manitobans are able to identify memory loss as a symptom of dementia. Many know that changes in confusion/disorientation, changes in mood/behaviour and personality changes are also symptoms of the disease. Ten per cent or fewer recognize the other seven warning signs and 70 per cent of Manitobans believe it is possible to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
There are an estimated 564,000 Canadians living with dementia. By 2031, this is expected to rise to 937,000, an increase of 66 per cent.
Currently there are currently more than 1.1 million Canadians impacted by dementia because they have a family member or close personal friend with the disease. The estimated combined cost of dementia (health-care system and out-of-pocket costs) is estimated at $10.4 billion.
By 2031, this figure is expected to increase by 60 per cent, to $16.6 billion according to a Alzheimer Society of Canada study.
There are more than 50 million people living with dementia worldwide. The number of people affected is set to rise to more than 152 million by 2050. There is one new case of dementia worldwide every three seconds. The worldwide costs of dementia are estimated at US$818 billion. As a result, if dementia care were a country, it would be the world’s 18th largest economy.
Liz McLeod, senior manager of regional services for the Alzheimer’s Society of Manitoba in Westman, said the increase in the number of people with dementia is likely due to an increase in awareness.
"Doctors are better educated," she said. "There are more specialists now. In Brandon, our clinics have increased in size. There’s a stigma reduction with more people admitting they have it."
McLeod said the increase in numbers could also be that more people are open about the disease due to media coverage through movies or books. She noted research is ongoing.
Her organization works mostly with the caregivers of those impacted by dementia.
"Caregivers need support. It’s a big part of what we do."
Her message is there is support out there for caregivers.
During World Alzheimer’s Month, the message to governments and policymakers is that dementia is a serious health issue that has overwhelming implications on services and health systems around the world as the population grows older, a release from the Manitoba Alzheimer’s organization stated.
On Sept. 21, they are asking Manitobans to wear blue for World Alzheimer’s Day to show support for families living with dementia.
For more information on dementia, see Alzheimer.mb.ca.
Common signs and symptoms of dementia, depending on the cause are: memory loss, difficulty commuting or finding words, difficulty with visual and spatial abilities such as getting lost while driving, difficulty reasoning or problem-solving or handling complex tasks. While there are more symptoms of the disease, these are only a few. If you suspect dementia in a family member or yourself, see your doctor.