It was love at first sight when Sandy met Doug. They had both ended long marriages. They shared a passion for work, a love of travel, and had compatible plans for retirement. They clicked instantly.
The McLean’s married two years later and were in the midst of living the lives they’d dreamed of when Doug, a top executive, lost his job because of increased anxiety and diminishing cognitive abilities.
Things didn’t get better. Doug became depressed and delusional. He could no longer tell time or do math, and he struggled with his memory.
So they began looking for answers. Over the next three years, Doug and Sandy went to doctor after doctor without a definitive diagnosis. It wasn’t until a second neurological test that Doug was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia and immediately put on the right medications. Finally, his symptoms were manageable and the McLean’s were able to fulfill some of their travel dreams.
At 60, Doug is fit and physically active, and is keen to continue life to the fullest. Being active is good for him, but it’s a challenge for Sandy. Doug needs safe, non-judgmental environments, and many activity programs for people with dementia are for seniors 65 and older. Doug doesn’t feel like he fits in.
Sandy is his 24/7 caregiver and advocate. She makes sure Doug keeps busy and plans all of his activities. But that doesn’t leave much time for herself. And, that dream of moving into a house they built outside of their city has been gently let go.
The Alzheimer Society of Manitoba has been a lifeline for Sandy and Doug, offering activities, resources and support services. But we can do so much more.
Donate today so that we can better support caregivers like Sandy and fund vital research to eliminate this disease and its impact on Canadians like Doug. Because it’s not just their disease. It’s ours too. #InItforAlz
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
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.
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.
Chris Dennis is the CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Ontario.
Even though I ran half a dozen marathons in my youth, 20 years on preparing for number seven wasn’t as easy as I thought. Since I received my son’s ‘Christmas gift,’ which entailed signing us both up for the Ottawa Marathon six months down the road, I have trained through rain and snow. And then, just to add a little pressure, I decided to turn my run into a fundraiser for Alzheimer’s disease research.
Why have one challenge when you can have two?
There have been bumps along the way. In addition to the coldest February on record, my doctor diagnosed me with bronchitis a week before the race. But with a puffer and some meds, he sent me on my way. I was ready..err sort of.
And with so many people rallying behind my fundraising effort, I more than doubled my goal and raised $13,000. Expectations were high and I didn’t want to let everyone down.
On May 24, I ran my marathon. It was gruelling and a lot slower since the last time I completed one. Having never cramped up in my entire life, I got my first at the 13 km mark. Such fun! Four hours on the pavement is a lot more difficult than the three I used to clock in days past. And my son beat my time by 40 minutes, leaving no doubt that the torch has been passed.
I ran my race but will stick to 10 kilometre races for the future. But it’s an experience I won’t soon forget.
CEO, the Alzheimer Society of Ontario
“Thank you, Son,” is what I should have said. “What a great reason for some quality father/son time,” would have been better. Instead, I cried, “You did what?!”
That was Christmas morning 2014. My eldest son had signed us both up for the Ottawa Marathon. I was scheduled to run 26 miles, or 42 km, in less than 5 months.
I’m in my 50’s, I haven’t run regularly for over 20 years and I’m about 20 pounds heavier since my last marathon in 1995. I’d better take this seriously. Of course, training with my son motivates me; staying healthy to take on whatever other surprises he will send my way as he makes his way through life does as well; and using this day to contribute to dementia research is the crowning piece.
No cure or treatment exists. There are no ways to prevent the disease. Yet, I have learned I can do something about dementia:
- I initially set a fundraising goal of $5,000 to support dementia research, which I will match. As I’m writing this, my goal has been met… and surpassed! Thank you very much for your support. Now, let’s see how much higher we can go!
- With March being Brain Health Awareness Month, my colleagues have reminded me that physical activity is one of the four lifestyle choices (including social and mental stimulation, and healthy diet) that are good for you. And they’re good for your brain too, encouraging the development of new cells and new connections within the brain.
- And according to the Ontario Brain Institute, being physically active is associated with a 38% reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
As I pursue these goals of staying healthy and raising money for dementia research, I have added to my training schedule a long-run every Saturday. Even mother-nature is urging me forward: this harsh winter of ours has offered balmy single-digit temperatures for most of those Saturdays with double digit lows for the balance of the week. I’ve actually started to enjoy running again, especially when I get in the zone, and realize I’ve just run another 10 k without thinking about running at all.
Not such a bad Christmas gift after all, right?
I would go to the ends of the earth for my family, so 42 kilometres seems quite reasonable. On that Christmas morning, I had no idea that his gift could mean so much for so many people.
Chris Dennis is the interim CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Ontario. Though he has many years of experience in the health-care sector, these past few months have offered him a unique window into this disease and he is committed to raising as much money for Alzheimer’s care and research as possible.