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Canada to become 30th country with national dementia strategy

Canada to become 30th country with national dementia strategy

The Alzheimer Society of Canada celebrates the passage of Bill C-233, An Act respecting a national strategy for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Canada will now become the latest country to develop a national dementia strategy to address the overwhelming scale, impact and cost of dementia.

“For the more than half a million Canadians living with dementia and their families, this is an important milestone,” says Pauline Tardif, CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Canada. “A national strategy enables a coordinated approach to tackling dementia in Canada that will impact the lives of those affected in tangible ways.”

Bill C-233’s co-sponsors, the Honourable Rob Nicholson, MP Niagara Falls, and Rob Oliphant, MP Don Valley West, are to be commended for their leadership and support, as is the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science, and Technology. They have been dedicated champions of the Bill on behalf of Canadians living with dementia, their families, and caregivers.

The Alzheimer Society has long called for a national dementia strategy to enhance research efforts and ensure access to quality care and support so that Canadians with dementia can have the best quality of life. Now that Canada has committed to such a strategy, work begins on implementation.

The Society and its federation partners look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with government, stakeholders and, above all, people living with dementia, to create and implement Canada’s first national dementia strategy.

To learn more, visit


Parliament of Canada

La Société Alzheimer du Canada salue l’adoption du Projet de loi C-233, la Loi concernant une stratégie nationale sur la maladie d’Alzheimer et d’autres démences. Le Canada va maintenant devenir le dernier pays à mettre sur pied une stratégie nationale sur les maladies cognitives pour répondre à l’ampleur, l’impact et au coût de ces maladies.

« Pour les plus de cinq cent mille Canadiens atteints de la maladie d’Alzheimer ou d’une maladie apparentée et leurs familles, il s’agit là d’un jalon important, a déclaré Pauline Tardif, chef de la direction de la Société Alzheimer du Canada. Une stratégie nationale nous permet d’avoir une approche coordonnée pour aborder les maladies cognitives au Canada, ce qui aura des impacts concrets sur la vie des personnes touchées. »

Il convient de féliciter les co-parrains du Projet de loi C-233, l’honorable Rob Nicholson, député de Niagara Falls, et Rob Oliphant, député de Don Valley West, pour leur leadership et leur soutien, tout comme les membres du Comité sénatorial permanent des affaires sociales, des sciences et de la technologie. Ils ont été des champions dévoués au projet de loi au nom des Canadiens touchés par la maladie, des familles et des aidants.

La Société Alzheimer réclame depuis longtemps une stratégie nationale sur les maladies cognitives afin de renforcer les efforts de recherche et assurer l’accès à des aides et des soins de qualité pour que les Canadiens touchés par la maladie puissent jouir d’une qualité de vie optimale. Maintenant que le Canada s’est engagé dans la voie d’une telle stratégie, le travail commence pour la mettre en place.

La Société et les partenaires de la Fédération se réjouissent à l’idée de continuer à collaborer avec le gouvernement, les intervenants, et, par-dessus tout, les personnes touchées par la maladie d’Alzheimer et les maladies apparentées afin de mettre au point et d’instaurer la première stratégie nationale qui y est consacrée au Canada.

Pour en apprendre davantage, rendez-vous à

Hope in the face of Alzheimer’s

Hope in the face of Alzheimer’s

One might think that having a disease with no cure wouldn’t leave a person with much hope to draw on. The truth is, if you’d asked me how I felt about the future after I was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, my answer would have been far from ‘hopeful.’ Then, one day, that changed.

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Getting a dementia diagnosis – where do you start?

Getting a dementia diagnosis – where do you start?

It can start with something simple, like having trouble following your favourite recipe, or putting your car keys in the fridge. Maybe you’ve noticed small changes in your memory that are affecting how you do things day-to-day.

If you can’t quite remember things that should be straightforward for you, or if you notice changes in your mood or ability to communicate, make an appointment to see your family doctor right away.

Diagnosing dementia is a complex and difficult process. The first thing your doctor will do is try to rule out if it’s a treatable condition, like depression or even an infection.

By finding out what is causing your symptoms, you can get the right kind of care, support and access to treatments as early as possible.

Be prepared to start the conversation with your doctor:

  • Take the time to review the 10 warning signs of dementia. This is important because dementia is not a normal part of aging, nor is memory loss the only symptom.
  • Jot down the signs you’ve been noticing in yourself. When did these start? Have they changed over time? This information will keep your conversation focused.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Ask your doctor if your symptoms could be caused by another health condition.
  • Be sure to let him or her know about your medical history, including any medications you’re currently taking.
  • Ask your doctor to explain what tests you’ll need and how long these will take.
  • Will you need to see a specialist or a series of specialists? How will you need to prepare for these visits?

For more tips on getting ready for your doctor’s visit, download our Getting a diagnosis toolkit. It offers a whole list of questions to ask as well as detailed information about the warning signs and what you can expect during the diagnosis process.

And, if you’re concerned about someone else, we encourage you to pass our toolkit along.

Getting an early diagnosis helps you and your family take control of the situation, plan for future and live as well as possible with dementia. Learn more about the benefits of an early diagnosis

You can be that one to make a difference

You can be that one to make a difference

Did you know that over 210,000 people in Ontario are living with dementia? That over 564,000 Canadians are affected by Alzheimer’s disease or dementia today? We all know, or know of, someone affected by this disease. They are our neighbours, our friends, our grandparents and our uncles. They are someone in our life, and they are more than just a number.

You can be that one to make a difference in the lives of those affected by dementia. By donating today, you can help fund research to find treatments, and even a cure, for this disease. You can help fund programs that support people with dementia and their caregivers, and help improve quality of life.

For people like Amir, your support means the world.

Here is his story:

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The mirror of dementia

The mirror of dementia

I look in the mirror and what do I see?

I see me. That is me…the same ‘me’ I’ve always seen when I look in the mirror.

But wait – is it really the same ‘me’? Is this what others see? I look like me – or the ‘me’ I was.

You see, I have changed – not on the outside, not in who I am, not in what I believe; I haven’t changed in how I see the world.

You see, I’ve changed in how my mind works.

The words…the words I use, they don’t come easy; they become confused. That word I want to use – you know that word – it won’t come to me now.

Oh yes, there I am, there in the mirror. What did I come in here for? I don’t know. Well, I’m in the bathroom looking in the mirror…I must be in here for something.

Oh look, here is a hairbrush. That must be it – I must have come in to brush my hair.

But when I look in the mirror, my hair is already brushed. No, no, that is not what I’m in here for.

This disease is making me confused at times. But I’m still me when I look in the mirror.

No, wait – those aren’t my eyes. Those eyes I see looking back at me are tired; my eyes aren’t tired.

My eyes twinkle and are full of life. I am full of life.

Look, look in the mirror – that is me. The ‘me’ others see.

Look at my smile – there it is – yes, I am happy. I have a loving husband and a supportive family. Yes, I am happy.

But, wait…that smile is drooping…my smile doesn’t droop.

Is this a sign of that disease in my head…the one that is attacking my brain? The brain that does not always work the way I want it to…

Can others see theses signs, too?

Look in the mirror – this is me.

How long will I still be me? How long will I still see me?

How soon before I look in this mirror and the ‘me’ won’t be there?

© 2016 Phyllis Fehr

Phyllis is a person living with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and Lewy body dementia. She is a strong advocate for the rights and abilities of people with dementia at the local, national and international level. Read her full bio here:

Introducing the 2015 Alzheimer Society Research Program (ASRP) Community Representatives / Des représentants de la collectivité participent au Programme de recherche de la Société Alzheimer (PRSA)

Introducing the 2015 Alzheimer Society Research Program (ASRP) Community Representatives / Des représentants de la collectivité participent au Programme de recherche de la Société Alzheimer (PRSA)

This year the Alzheimer Society celebrates 27 years of funding research through the Alzheimer Society Research Program (ASRP). The peer review panel meetings were held in February 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, and included the role of Community Representatives.

Community Representatives are members of the general public who are not currently involved with research who are given the opportunity to comment on the intent, purpose and on the clarity of the language used within the lay summaries of research applications that are received by the Society. Their involvement in peer review serves as a mechanism for public accountability by providing feedback on the ASRP peer review process.

It is with great pleasure that we introduce our 2015 Community Representatives:

“I was given the chance to understand the peer review process and the Alzheimer society’s involvement in research when I reviewed as a community representative. Being a part of the process meant a lot to me. The different abstracts read were very helpful to me because it gave me hope about my husband who has MCI, some of which may help him someday.  Also, the doctors we met were all very professional and ethical, open and friendly. As a caregiver I found the peer review process to be a learning experience; I got to learn about interesting abstracts and research about MCI/Alzheimer’s disease/Dementia.

Funding research on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is important to me because there is a need for early diagnosis, understanding the cause of Alzheimer’s and treatment for the different types of dementias. Hopefully my husband and children and others will benefit from this research.”

-Lydia Watts, 2015 Community Representative, Biomedical Peer Review Panel

Lydia is the primary caregiver to her husband, Bruce, who has Mild Cognitive Impairment. She is a retired medical technologist and now enjoys volunteering and her hobbies include beading and taking online courses.

“This has been a rewarding and interesting experience. It is encouraging to hear how much research and development there is to control the advancement and perhaps eventually cure this devastating disease. Everyone we met at this conference are very friendly, open and encouraging people all working together with a similar goal – to beat this disease and improve our quality of life. Having an opportunity to comment on the research left me feeling heard and understood for the input I was given the chance to offer.

As a person living with dementia I found the peer review process to be an important and worthwhile endeavour and time well spent.

Funding research on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is important to me because research is finding a way to control and eventually cure Alzheimer’s and MCI is important now and for future generations.”

-Bruce Watts, 2015 Community Representative, Biomedical Peer Review Panel

Bruce is living with Mild Cognitive Impairment and is supported by his wife Lydia and family. He is a retired medical technologist. His hobbies include photography.


Gail“This has been a positive and encouraging experience. I am impressed with the variety of proposals and the thorough and detailed process used to make decisions. The discussions were clear and lively and people were patient yet challenging.

As a person living with dementia I found the peer review process to be encouraging and thorough.

Funding research on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is important to me because I hope they will find a cure. As well it will provide different and new ways to deal with the disease. I am particularly interested in long term care.”

-Gail Reid, 2015 Community Representative, Quality of Life Peer Review Panel

Gail is living with Alzheimer’s disease. She formerly worked as a social worker, magazine editor and writer.


Sandi“I am honoured and pleased to play a small part on this panel.As a person living with dementia I found the peer review process to be very formative and interesting.

Funding research on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is important to me because with the aging population there is a great need.”

-Sandi Matchett, 2015 Community Representative, Quality of Life Peer Review Panel

Sandi is living with dementia. She is a former graphic designer who enjoys water colour painting and playing tennis.


Le Programme de recherche de la Société Alzheimer finance la recherche depuis maintenant 27 ans. Des représentants de la collectivité ont participé aux réunions des comités d’évaluation par des pairs, qui ont eu lieu en février 2015 à Toronto (Ontario).

Les représentants de la collectivité sont des membres du grand public qui ne participent pas actuellement à la recherche. Ils donnent leurs commentaires sur les intentions et les objectifs des projets de recherche soumis et sur la clarté du langage utilisé dans les résumés simplifiés. Leur contribution au processus d’évaluation par des pairs fournit un mécanisme de reddition de comptes auprès du public.

Nous sommes très heureux de vous présenter nos représentants de la collectivité pour 2015.

« À titre de représentante de la collectivité, j’ai eu la chance de comprendre le fonctionnement du processus d’évaluation par des pairs et les modalités de participation de la Société Alzheimer à la recherche. Cela a été très important pour moi de participer à ce processus. Les divers résumés que j’ai lus m’ont donné beaucoup d’espoir pour mon mari qui est atteint d’un trouble cognitif léger. Certains des projets soumis pourraient un jour ou l’autre lui venir en aide. Tous les médecins que j’ai rencontrés ont fait preuve d’éthique et de professionnalisme, en plus d’être très ouverts et sympathiques. Le processus d’évaluation par des pairs m’a permis d’enrichir mes connaissances à titre d’aidante. J’ai appris beaucoup à la lecture des résumés de recherche sur les troubles cognitifs légers, la maladie d’Alzheimer et les maladies apparentées.

Le financement de la recherche sur l’Alzheimer et les maladies apparentées me tient à cœur. Il est important d’établir rapidement le diagnostic et de trouver les causes de ces maladies afin de mettre au point un traitement. J’espère que mon mari, mes enfants et d’autres personnes pourront en profiter »

– Lydia Watts, représentante de la collectivité, comité d’évaluation par les pairs, volet biomédical

Mme Watts est l’aidante principale de son mari, Bruce, atteint d’un trouble cognitif léger. Technologiste médicale à la retraite, elle aime faire du bénévolat, broder et suivre des cours en ligne.

“« Cette expérience a été très intéressante et très enrichissante. L’ampleur des recherches menées actuellement pour combattre et guérir cette terrible maladie m’a beaucoup encouragé. Au cours de cette conférence, nous avons rencontré des gens sympathiques, ouverts et encourageants, qui travaillent tous ensemble à la réalisation d’un même objectif , à savoir améliorer notre qualité de vie et vaincre cette maladie. Cette chance que j’ai eue d’émettre mes commentaires sur la recherche m’a donné le sentiment d’être entendu et compris. À titre de personne atteinte d’une maladie cognitive, ma participation au processus d’évaluation par des pairs a été pour moi une activité très gratifiante.

Si nous voulons combattre l’Alzheimer et les maladies apparentées et en arriver un jour à les vaincre, il est important de poursuivre le financement de la recherche pour les personnes atteintes aujourd’hui et pour les générations futures. »

-Bruce Watts, comité d’évaluation par les pairs 2015, volet biomédical

M. Watt, technologiste médical à la retraite, est atteint d’un trouble cognitif léger. Il bénéficie du soutien de sa femme Lydia et de sa famille.


Gail« Cette expérience a été positive et encourageante. Je suis impressionnée par la variété des projets soumis et le processus minutieux mis en place pour prendre les décisions. Les discussions étaient animées et intéressantes, exigeantes et stimulantes.

La recherche sur l’Alzheimer et les maladies apparentées est importante pour moi parce qu’elle nous permettra de trouver de nouveaux moyens de combattre ces maladies et de découvrir un remède. Je m’intéresse particulièrement aux soins de longue durée. »

-Gail Reid, représentante du public 2015, comité d’évaluation par des pairs, volet qualité de vie

Mme Reid, qui est atteinte de la maladie d’Alzheimer, a été travailleuse sociale, rédactrice en chef d’une revue et écrivaine.


« Je suis atteinte d’une maladie cognitive et je suis heureuse du petit rôle que je remplis au sein de ce comité.

Le processus d’évaluation par des pairs a pour moi été très formateur et très intéressant.

Le financement de la recherche sur l’Alzheimer et les maladies apparentées est important en raison des nouveaux besoins créés par le vieillissement de la population. »

-Sandi Matchett, comité d’évaluation par les pairs 2015, volet qualité de vie

Mme Matchett, représentante de la collectivité, est atteinte d’une maladie cognitive. Graphiste à la retraite, elle aime l’aquarelle et le tennis.

Nightmares or the Orange Pill

Nightmares or the Orange Pill

I’m tired this morning. The lingering affects of my nightmares stays with me.

One of the characteristics of Frontotemporal dementia is sleep disturbances. In addition to this I have been diagnosed with REM sleep behavioural disorder. This “… is a disorder in which you physically act out vivid, often unpleasant dreams with vocal sounds and sudden, often violent arm and leg movements during REM sleep.”
Normally you don’t move during REM sleep. About 20 % of your sleep is spent in REM sleep, the usual time for dreaming, which occurs primarily during the second half of the night. (Mayo Clinic)

REM sleep behaviour disorder often may be associated with other neurological conditions such as Lewy body dementia, Parkinson’s disease or multiple system atrophy.

I have had this disorder for about four years; that means prior to my diagnosis of Frontemporal dementia (FTD).
The other distinct characteristic of this is that you usually remember the nightmare(s) unlike many dreams.
Although I had a diagnosis, I choose not to take any suggested medications to help the symptoms. About a year ago, that changed as my nightmares were more frequent and frightening.

My doctor put me on 0.5MG of Clonazepam. Yes, medication from the “pam family.” Clonazepam often used to treat anxiety is also the traditional choice for treating REM sleep behaviour disorder.

However, in people with FTD, benzodiazepines have been associated with an increase in behavioural challenges and impair both memory and pschomotor skills. Use can result in reduced inhibition and impaired judgement. Simply put Clonazepam should be avoided.

I’m sure you can see the conundrum. To take or not to take. That is the question!

My daily medication is taken via a blister-pack. The clonazepam is not included in it. Every night as I take my blister-pack medication, I have to also open up the pill bottle for it.

Last night I choose not to take it. This is the second time this week. Why not? I keep hoping to take less medication. I keep thinking maybe I don’t need to take it anymore. But I’m promptly reminded why I do need to take it. Without it comes the nightmares. Terrible nightmares.

Although clonazepam is not suggested for people with dementia, I’ve made a choice to include the orange pill in my daily medication. Without it, the monsters come out and I can be heared yelling “Help me….”

Mary Beth Wighton is a blogger living with Frontotemporal dementia. If you want to subsribe to her blog or get in touch with her for any reason, send her an email (

fdd8c873df2214bMary Beth Wighton

Blogger and dementia advocate

Cracked: New Light on Dementia combines research, dementia and the arts

Cracked: New Light on Dementia combines research, dementia and the arts

In the spring and fall of 2013, I worked with a team of artists and researchers on the play Cracked: New Light on Dementia. I was brought onto the project because of my theatre background and because of my personal and professional experience working with people who have dementia.

The play is intended to inspire alternative ways of seeing people living with dementia, instill the importance of maintaining strong relationships with them, and reinforce the imperative for good ethical care. The play will enhance person-centred care with the help of funding from the Alzheimer Society Research Program (ASRP). The ASRP is funding performances in long term care settings to research how health care workers shift their understanding of dementia after seeing the play.

With the support of an Ontario Arts Council Theatre Creator’s Reserve grant (administered through Theatre Gargantua), I spent a month with the team – two weeks in the spring and then two weeks in the fall – acting as Dramaturge and Assistant Director. This means that I worked closely with the director/playwright, providing insight and support on the development of the script and the performance. I also attended the rehearsals with the performers and researchers, and gave feedback and suggestions as needed.

When I arrived at my first rehearsal, the team had already been working on the piece intermittently for about a year, discussing themes, improvising scenes, and exploring characters, storylines, music and movement, and drawing on the research and professional experience of the research team.

It is difficult to fully express how beautiful it was to watch the actors work, and to see how bravely, spontaneously and creatively they approached the material. In a word, it was breathtaking.

A highlight for me was that, before I came onboard, members of the team had held focus groups and informal conversations with people living with dementia, and these provided valuable inspiration for the creation of the piece. Then while I was there, we had the opportunity to visit a long term care facility, and were able to spend time with some of the residents and there, in both one-on-one and group settings.

The experiences, thoughts, words and insights that were so openly and generously shared with us were brought up and discussed time and time again during our rehearsals. These individuals had made a tremendous impact on all of us, and you can see some of these experiences and insights in the final piece. There is incredible truth in this play.

It was magical to spend so much time with a group of people determined to change negative dementia discourses through the theatre. Art can be a powerful tool for creating social change, as it tends to reach us on a deep and personal level, stirring something in us that perhaps cannot be reached through other means. The magnitude of our responses can sometimes even catch us off guard, and many times in the rehearsal process I found myself brought to tears.

Cracked is a truthful and nuanced story of dementia, where joy and grief, strength and vulnerability, and struggle and peace all come together in an intricate dance. It demonstrates the power of relationships, and, perhaps most importantly, it shows us that who we are – the very core of ourselves – remains intact throughout the dementia journey.

Photo credit: Karl Ang

Aynsley Moorhouse, MFA, MSW, RSW

Alzheimer Society of Toronto    





The Cracked Ensemble

Director: Julia Gray

Performers: Susan Applewhaite, Lori Nancy Kalamanski, Sarah Machin Gale, Claire Frances Muir, Jason Chesworth, Tim Machin, David Talbot

Research Team: Drs. Sherry Dupuis, Pia Kontos, Gail Mitchell, Christine Jonas-Simpson

Co-Creators: Mark Prince, Mary Ellen MacLean

Set and Costume Design: Lindsay Anne Black

Music Director: Tim Machin

Stage Manager: Elizabeth McDermott

Assistant Director/Dramaturge: Aynsley Moorhouse

Scenic Artist: Ksenia Ivanova

Wardrobe Assistant: Alyksandra Ackerman


For performance dates and a full list of acknowledgements and sponsors, please visit: