Alzheimer’s disease remains mostly a puzzle, and improvements in treatment have only had modest success in delaying onset and its final, inexorable conclusion.
What we do know is not encouraging. We know that, while aging is a risk factor, the disease is not restricted to old age. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and smoking add to the risks, so healthy living counts.
We know Alzheimer’s can be overwhelming for its victims’ caregivers. Dealing with the relentless deterioration of a loved one becomes both mentally and physically debilitating.
We know that three quarters of a million Canadians are living with Alzheimer’s, and as the average age of our population rises, so will its burden.
In our province, 70,000 people have Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia and more than 10,000 diagnosed are under the age of 65. Every year, 15,000 British Columbians are diagnosed with dementia, says the Alzheimer Society of B.C. These staggering statistics support the argument that calls for a serious national strategy in Canada to deal with Alzheimer’s disease.
Furthermore, just last week we learned that Alzheimer’s strikes women more than twice as often as it does men – and that nearly three out of four caregivers are women. That’s why such a national strategy should focus strongly on the full impact that Alzheimer’s has on women.
In our own communities, the fight against Alzheimer’s goes on, with encouraging results. The Investors Group Walk for Memories raised hundreds of thousands of dollars locally and throughout the province on Jan. 25.
Long-time volunteer Dorothy Gibbs was this year’s honouree for the Surrey, North Delta, and White Rock.
With dedicated people like Dorothy leading the way in the fight against Alzheimer’s, hope is stronger to hold onto.