Lack of illness knowledge is ‘troubling,’ says society

Baby boomers in Mission, like their counterparts around the rest of the country, have a troubling lack of awareness about Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new online survey.

“The gap in awareness in B.C. is sounding alarm bells as to whether our largest population is prepared for the rising tide of dementia that is ahead,” says Jillian Armit, the Mission support and education coordinator for the non-profit Alzheimer Society of B.C.

Perhaps more troubling, she adds, is that respondents to the national survey were unfamiliar with controllable risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and chronic depression.

“Awareness and education are the cornerstones for risk reduction particularly since there is yet no cure or treatment to stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” Armit says.

“People need to take care of their brain health. We need to work together to support those who are already on the dementia journey and to find the causes and cure for this devastating disease.”

The survey was released earlier this month to kick off national Alzheimer Awareness Month. Among its findings:

• 24 per cent of baby boomers can’t name any of the early signs of Alzheimer’s

This is worrisome, Armit says, because the risk level for boomers doubles every five years after 65. And boomers make up almost 30 per cent of the overall population in the province.

• Less than half of those surveyed in B.C. were able to identify later-stage symptoms other than the most commonly known loss of memory.

“This indicates a general lack of awareness of life-altering changes such as hallucinations and complete dependency on others for basic care,” she says.

Mission residents can test their own knowledge by taking the survey at www.alzheimerbc.org/testyourknowledge.aspx.

“We want everyone, especially those 40 and older, to learn about Alzheimer’s disease, know the warning signs, and reduce their risk by making simple lifestyle changes.”

To help residents with the impact of Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia, the society runs support and information groups, for family caregivers and for those in the early stages of the disease. They offer practical tips, a supportive environment, and a chance to learn from, and share with, others in similar circumstances.

For information, contact Armit at 604-859-3889 or jarmit@alzheimerbc.org.