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Category: Risk Factors and Prevention

‘We’re not running and hiding’: Couple confronts possibility of dementia head-on

‘We’re not running and hiding’: Couple confronts possibility of dementia head-on

When you’ve seen the effects of dementia before, noticing even minor changes in your cognitive abilities can be alarming. Both Yvon and Susanne lost their mothers to Alzheimer’s, so they’re no strangers to the disease.

When Susanne began to show small signs of forgetfulness a few months ago, they immediately went to their doctor. After a series of tests, Susanne was diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), which can be—although not always—a precursor to dementia. Susanne was given appropriate medication and is showing signs of improvement. MCI is “just barely on the scale” of neurological impairment, but because of their shared family histories of Alzheimer’s, the couple is not taking any chances.

Yvon has made changes in his life now that he’s supporting a partner with MCI. He’s learning different ways of saying and doing things, taking on new tasks, and researching as much as he can about cognitive impairments and dementias. He’s reading about the importance of nutrition, exercise and mental activities. He’s also grateful for the support of friends and neighbours.

And MCI is not their only health concern. Susanne also lives with lupus and Yvon has diabetes and glaucoma in his right eye. To help manage these multiple health concerns, Yvon and Susanne are looking for new supported living arrangements to relieve some of the stress of handling everything on their own.

They’re hopeful. Being proactive about the disease gives Yvon a sense of clarity and calmness. He encourages Susanne in the kinds of activities that keep her engaged and active – doing household finances and crosswords, knitting and reading. They’re learning everything they can about the disease and have joined a support group, one of many programs available at the Alzheimer Society of Cornwall.

“The more education people have, the better prepared they can be about what’s ahead,” says Yvon. That’s why supporting the Alzheimer Society’s work in raising awareness and funding research is so critical for couples like Yvon and Susanne. Making a donation helps. Because it’s not just their disease. It’s ours too. #InItforAlz


« On ne peut pas se sauver de la réalité » : Un couple fait face à la possibilité de se voir confronter à la maladie d’Alzheimer

Yvon and Susanne Brazeau

Même des changements mineurs dans nos capacités cognitives peuvent nous inquiéter quand on connaît les conséquences de la maladie d’Alzheimer. Cette maladie a emporté la mère de Suzanne et celle d’Yvon. Tous deux savent très bien de quoi il en retourne.

Il y a quelques mois, Suzanne a commencé à montrer des signes de perte de mémoire. Tout de suite, elle a consulté son médecin. Après une série de tests, un diagnostic de déficit cognitif léger lui a été confirmé. Même si cela n’est pas toujours le cas, ce diagnostic pourrait être un signe avant-coureur de maladie cognitive. Suzanne prend les médicaments recommandés pas son médecin et montre maintenant des signes d’amélioration. Le déficit cognitif léger est un trouble neurologique mineur, mais, en raison de ses antécédents familiaux, Suzanne ne veut courir aucun risque.

Yvon a modifié un peu son style de vie depuis qu’il prête assistance à sa conjointe. Il apprend de nouvelles façons de dire et de faire les choses, prend en charge de nouvelles tâches, et s’informe du mieux qu’il le peut sur les questions entourant les déficiences et maladies cognitives. Ses lectures lui ont fait prendre conscience de l’importance de la nutrition, de l’exercice et des activités mentales. Ses amis et ses voisins le soutiennent et il en est très reconnaissant.

Mais ce n’est pas tout. Suzanne est également atteinte du lupus et Yvon a le diabète, en plus d’un glaucome à l’œil droit. Pour ne plus être livrés à eux-mêmes dans leur combat contre la maladie et pour évacuer un peu de stress, Yvon et Suzanne tentent actuellement de trouver des services d’aide à la vie autonome.

Par-dessus tout, ils gardent l’espoir. Grâce à son attitude proactive face à la maladie, Yvon éprouve un sentiment de clarté et de calme. Il encourage Suzanne à rester active en participant aux finances du ménage et en faisant des mots croisés, du tricot et de la lecture. Ils apprennent tout ce qu’ils peuvent sur la maladie et font maintenant partie d’un groupe de soutien, qui est l’un des nombreux services offerts par la Société Alzheimer de Cornwall.

« Plus on s’informe, mieux on se prépare pour l’avenir », déclare Yvon. C’est pourquoi il est si important de soutenir les initiatives de sensibilisation du public et de financement de la recherche de la Société Alzheimer. Votre contribution est importante parce que les maladies cognitives ne concernent pas seulement les personnes atteintes. Elles nous concernent tous. #TousContreAlzheimer.


Dementia and air pollution: should we flee to the country?

Dementia and air pollution: should we flee to the country?

Could living in a major city increase your risk of dementia? A new study suggests that may be the case.

After studying over two million Ontarians over an 11-year period, researchers found that the closer they lived to a major roadway, the more likely they were to develop dementia. Those who had lived in urban areas for a long time were even more likely to develop the condition than those who had moved more recently.

These findings suggest one culprit in particular: air pollution. Of course, the study didn’t prove that air pollution causes dementia – only that there is some sort of relationship. But this isn’t the first major study to find an association between air pollution and a decline in brain function in middle-aged and older adults.

So does this mean that we should all flock to the country? Not so fast.

The increased risk shown in the study is only slightly higher, and while these results might help us understand a bit more about what causes dementia in certain circumstances, more research needs to be done.

The “brew” of different toxins that make up air pollution make it difficult to attribute the effect to one specific factor, and there are other factors besides air pollution that may come into play.

Yet, air pollution is an area worthy of more study because it has other indirect but very important effects on the brain. Air pollution may contribute to conditions like pulmonary disease, heart disease and stroke, which we know can increase a person’s chances of developing dementia. Cardiovascular disease, in particular, can lead to vascular dementia.

While the findings of this new study are preliminary, they do have important implications for public health. We need to do more to control and reduce air pollution and protect our most vulnerable citizens.

And while we still don’t fully understand the causes of dementia, there are things we can do right now to reduce our risk. More physical activity, eating a heart-healthy diet, quitting smoking, challenging our brains and staying socially connected are all essential for brain health.

Research Video Series: Introducing Marco Prado

Research Video Series: Introducing Marco Prado

Dr. Marco Prado’s research aims to address the mechanisms by which deficient cholinergic circuits contribute to dementia. He is an Alzheimer Society Research Program Biomedical Research Grant recipient and a professor at the University of Western Ontario.

Let’s make sure that aging does not mean losing one’s identity.
-Dr. Marco Prado

Dr. Marco Prado

Biomedical Grant Recipient in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia – $149,128
Project: Mechanisms of anti-cholinergic activity mediated dementia and Alzheimer’s pathology

Read about more of our grants and awards recipients here.

Exercise Your Brain With The #SummerChallenge!

Exercise Your Brain With The #SummerChallenge!

Front view of grandfather with hat and grandchild walking on a nature path ** Note: Shallow depth of field

With the warmer temperatures, extra hours of sunlight, and an increase in vitamin D, summer is a great time to get outside, get active and take part in the new Alzheimer Society of Ontario’s #summerchallenge! While you’re out there getting your body moving, don’t forget to give your brain a workout too!

Research shows that keeping your brain active can help to reduce the risks of Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias. Exercising your brain is simple, free, and gives you incredible benefits. Let’s take a look at three great ways to flex your brain cells!

  1. Neurobic exercises

Neurobics is the science of brain exercise, with the aim of helping you to hold on to memories while also being able to absorb new information. To get the most out of neurobics:

  • Stimulate your senses in a new way
  • Utilize your emotions and engage with other people
  • Find a way to break your usual routine

Try brushing your teeth with your opposite hand. Put some coins in your pocket, and try to determine the denominations just by feeling them. Go inside and pay the gas station attendant instead of paying at the pump. Practices like these will encourage your brain to make new connections.

    2. Read out loud

While reading is itself a fabulous activity that exercises your brain on different levels, reading out loud kicks the cerebral workout up a notch.

Reading utilizes visual pathways to make memory links but reading out loud creates a layer of auditory pathways, which helps us to remember things better. In addition to pathway creation, reading aloud sharpens focus, increases your vocabulary, and leads to greater comprehension – all of which help to strengthen your brain.

3. Practice mindfulness

One of the best things you can do for cerebral health is to stop thinking about yesterday or worrying about tomorrow. The practice of mindfulness is one that exercises our brains in a way we don’t do enough of – by shutting out all external stimuli and being present in the here and now.

Mindfulness meditation is a great way to enjoy the current moment. Find somewhere comfortable to sit upright, ensure there is no noise or other distractions in your space, and simply start focusing on your breath. Take deep breaths in and out, feeling how the air flows through your body. The stillness may feel uncomfortable at first, but try to engage in the exercise for at least a minute.

Mindfulness improves your effectiveness, reduces cortisol levels, and helps with a number of other physical and mental health markers. Mindfulness also helps us to be grateful in the moment, and that positivity leads to an increased benefit to our health and how we look at life.

So, there you have it. Three excellent ways to challenge your brain, learn more about yourself, and get some great benefits out of it all. Neurobics, reading out loud, and mindfulness – which one will you try today? Tweet us, comment on Facebook, or share your thoughts below, and enjoy the #summerchallenge!

Feeling lucky? Enter the Summer Challenge contest on!

Stay brain healthy with the #SummerChallenge!

Stay brain healthy with the #SummerChallenge!

The Alzheimer Society of Ontario wants to help you reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia with the #SummerChallenge. This summer we have come up with four simple steps that can help you to keep your brain active and healthy!

Eat Healthy:

Challenge yourself to bring your lunch to work each day, saving you from the unhealthy, but tempting, restaurants near the office! Lucky for you, fruits and vegetables are in season and delicious this time of year! Pick up some healthy greens at your local grocery store and bring some fresh salads and fresh fruit snacks.

Be Active:

Maybe that New Year’s resolution to go to the gym hasn’t quite panned out, but there is no better time than the summer to get outdoors and be active! Explore some of the beautiful Ontario parks and trails, and enjoy the scenery while exercising your body and mind!

Get Social:

Take advantage of the beautiful weather to meet up with friends and family, be it a family picnic or a bar-b-que with neighbors. If you’re enjoying a vacation away from home, write postcards to your friends telling them about the exciting and wonderful things you’ve done on your trip!

Exercise Your Brain:

Have a long list of books you’d like to read? Then jog your brain with some summer reading! Looking for a new activity for the summer? Sign up for an online course or join a cooking class with friends!

It’s never too early or too late to start being brain healthy! So take the #SummerChallenge and help reduce your risk of dementia!

What will your Summer Challenge be?

My grandparents brain healthly lifestyle inspired me

My grandparents brain healthly lifestyle inspired me

I was in my late teens when I decided to move in with my grandparents. I thought it would be something new and they were aspiring vegans with a great vegetable garden. They lived in a retirement community and, being the youngest person to take residence there, I caused quite a stir. Nevertheless, I took over their spare room and immersed myself in the life of a retiree.

They started every day with a smoothie, full of healthy fats, fruits and vegetables, while they read the paper, completed the sudoku and crossword, then called me in to read my horoscope.

My grandmother spent her days gardening, chatting and reading romance novels; my grandfather golfed all the time, mowed lawns and played cards with my uncles.

I enjoyed the two years I spent with them. They are young at heart and I loved hearing their perspective on life, soaking up whatever lessons they were willing to teach me.

One of the most important things I learned during my time there was about brain health. Brain exercises were a ritual revered by my grandparents.

It’s because Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant in my family. My grandparents have seen their parents, siblings, and friends lost in that slow decline of memory loss and confusion. They have witnessed firsthand the effects this illness has on a family and they did everything possible to stop it.

It’s a lesson I have kept with me, even after I moved out. I know that it’s never too early to focus on brain health and reduce my risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. I value that foresight because many of my friends don’t realize the long term health effects of their actions today.

I use my free time to train my brain, learning languages and playing puzzle games. I use apps like Elevate to track my progress and hone my skills. And weekends, I love to go hiking and have coffee with friends. I remember that, even though it may seem far away now, life will move quickly and I don’t want to be in a position later on that will be harder to correct.

Today, my grandparents still complete the same morning routine, but now the paper has been traded for a tablet and they’re a little less vegan than before. However, they still take those simple steps to stay the healthiest they can be, and hopefully, they will one day teach my children the same lessons they taught me.

Learn more about how you can keep your brain healthy.

DakotaDakota Clark

Humber College PR student

Give your brain and body a boost in Toronto!

Give your brain and body a boost in Toronto!


Give your brain and body a boost!


Minds in Motion® program launches in Toronto for Alzheimer Awareness Month


She is challenging herself physically, using those muscles she needs to get out of a chair, to go upstairs.”  This comment is a tribute to the power of Minds in Motion®, an Alzheimer Society program launching in Toronto, along with an additional 11 Ontario communities, in January 2015 for Alzheimer Awareness Month. Designed for people with early to mid-stage signs of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias and their care partners, Minds in Motion incorporates physical activity and mental stimulation as a way of helping people live well with the disease, while encouraging care partners to take care of themselves as well.

Less than half of Ontario’s older adults get the recommended 2 ½ hours of physical activity per week, despite growing evidence that mental and social stimulation develop connections between brain cells, which in turn maintains cognitive functions longer. Minds in Motion® has built its program incorporating 45 minutes of physical exercise and 45 minutes of mentally stimulating activities.

Minds in Motion® was first introduced in 2009 in British Columbia, in response to a need for community-based programming for people with early dementia and their care partners that did not make participants feel marginalized or embarrassed. In the spring of 2014, the program then launched in Ontario with start-up funds from the Ontario Brain Institute. Enthusiastic care partners say “He seems more cheerful now and I have more tenacity now to keep going on the journey..” People with dementia are just as keen with comments like, “If I could change one thing about the Minds in Motion it would be… to make it full time”

The social aspect of the program is a critical success factor. People with dementia often feel isolated because of the stigma associated with the disease. Minds in Motion® promotes an environment that helps participants establish friendships with others who are living similar experiences.

Minds in Motion® runs for 2 hours/week for 8 weeks. Registration is $40/couple (includes a healthy snack).

Interested individuals living in the GTA can select to register for one of the two locations below.

Option A
North York Seniors Centre
21 Hendon Avenue, Toronto
Start Date: January 20, 2015
Tuesdays 10am-12pm

Option B
Harbourfront Community Centre
627 Queen’s Quay, Toronto
Start Date: January 21, 2015
Wednesdays 4pm-6pm
For any questions, or to register, please contact Romina Oliverio at 416-640-6330 or

For more information on Minds in Motion, visit

Note: Upon sign-up, participants will be asked a few questions and undergo a physical assessment to ensure the program is the right fit for them. The assessments will be done in early January (location and dates TBD)

Article by: Romina Oliverio

Alive Inside in Toronto

Alive Inside in Toronto

The Michael Rossato-Bennett’s documentary, Alive Inside, was recently screened at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. The film follows the work of social worker Dan Cohen as he implements the iPod project across the United States through his non-profit organization, Music & Memory.


Inspired by the film and based on the evidence of the beneficial effects of music on people with dementia, the Alzheimer Society of Toronto launched its own Music and Memory: iPod project in 2013.The Society recognized a need to find a way to help people with Alzheimer’s disease better communicate with their caregiver and the world around them.

Sabrina McCurbin, iPod Project coordinator at the Alzheimer Society of Toronto was onsite for a post-film question period.

“It was refreshing to see the variety of people in the audience from all walks and professions in life- wholly moved and invested in playing a role in bringing joy to people affected by this disease”, said McCurbin.“The incredible amount of support and interest in our Project, as a result, is a testament to the wide-spread impact of Alive Inside.”

In its first year, the Society provided iPods with personalized playlists to over 1,200 people living with dementia.

As Cathy Barrick, CEO, Alzheimer Society of Toronto says, “When you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia, it can be a tremendous challenge to communicate or find ways to help him or her rediscover pleasure in the world. This program is a big win – people with dementia are stimulated, engaged, more alert for longer periods of time and want to share the music, creating a real spike in social interaction.”

For more information about Alive Inside

For more information about the Alzheimer Society of Toronto’s iPod Project