January is Alzheimer Awareness Month across Canada, and so this week I would like to take some time to talk about this condition. Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease. It causes memory loss and impairs thinking processes; symptoms of the disease often include loss of short- and long-term memory, changes in mood and behavior, a reduced ability to communicate and think clearly, and, eventually, a breakdown of immune functions. Tragically, Alzheimer’s patients typically die of this disease within seven to ten years of being diagnosed.
It is estimated that one out of every 11 Canadians over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. Here in our province, that comes to more than 70,000 British Columbians living with the disease. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, and it is estimated that the number of Canadians living with Alzheimer’s will more than double within a generation.
In November, our government introduced new guidelines for improved dementia care, based on national, evidence-based best practices. They provide increased support for doctors, nurses, and care providers in decision-making for people with dementia, promoting person-centred care for those living with this condition.
The HealthLink BC website has also been updated with new information to help persons with dementia and their families better understand the condition. This includes information about the Alzheimer Society’s First Link program, through which those with dementia and their families can receive more information and access to programs and services that can help them.
Improving services for those living with dementia is an important part of B.C.’s Families First Agenda, and our government would like any input you may have about the best way to support families dealing with dementia; to share your ideas, go to www.familiesfirstbc.ca.
To learn more about Alzheimer’s and dementia, please visit HealthLink BC at www.healthlinkbc.ca or the Alzheimer Society of British Columbia at www.alzheimerbc.org.
Donna Barnett is the Liberal MLA for Cariboo-Chilcotin.