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January is Alzheimer Awareness Month

Courtesy of Alzheimer Society of Canada

An online survey of baby boomers across Canada conducted by the Alzheimer Society reveals a worrying lack of awareness about Alzheimer’s disease.

Survey results show that an astonishing 23 per cent of boomers can’t name any of the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease, even though their risk doubles every five years after age 65.

Of those surveyed, 50 per cent identified memory loss as a key symptom, but failed to mention other critical signs.

“Boomers are their own best detectors of Alzheimer’s,” says Mary Schulz, National Director of Education at the Alzheimer Society. “This is an insidious disease. Most people associate memory loss with Alzheimer’s but it’s so much more. Sudden changes in mood, misplacing common household items (like keys in the refrigerator), repeating words or statements or difficulty with everyday tasks like getting dressed can all be warning signs that need to be discussed with a doctor.”

Most boomers are familiar with the common hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease of not recognizing familiar faces and objects. But less than half know about life-altering changes, such as hallucinations or total dependency on others for basic care, that occur in the disease’s later stages. More troubling, respondents are unaware that diabetes, obesity, heart disease and chronic depression significantly increase their odds for developing the disease.

Today’s findings confirm a disturbing lack of knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease among boomers, the country’s largest demographic group, who will become increasingly at risk as they age. But the reasons for self-awareness and prevention have never been more compelling. Without a cure or drugs to stop the disease, Alzheimer’s is destined to be the most pressing and costly health issue boomers will face in their lifetime: either they will get the disease themselves or be faced with caring for someone with the disease.

Canadians can test their own knowledge at www.alzheimer.ca/testyourknowledge

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