September is World Alzheimer’s Month. Across the globe, a person develops Alzheimer’s every 4 seconds and it’s estimated that tens of millions of people have the disease. The Alzheimer Society of Ontario is the province’s leading organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for Ontarians living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias and advancing the search for the cause and cure. To highlight World Alzheimer’s Month, we are celebrating some of the Canadian researchers funded through generous donations to the Alzheimer Society. Because while we don’t yet have a cure, we want to remind you that “You CAN do something about dementia.” Donate today as part of World Alzheimer’s Month and double your impact by having your donation matched by a generous supporter. Visit research.alzheimerontario.ca
“You watch as they become someone else. It’s difficult to see that. I watched my husband and his brothers struggle to help their dad. It was a real eye-opener.”
Powerful words spoken by Dawn Guthrie, Associate Professor at Wilfrid Laurier University. Dr. Guthrie is talking about her personal experience with dementia. Looking back she says the family was blessed because six adults including a nurse helped provide care, but it was tough even with that level of support. “I saw just how demanding it is.”
This experience helped inspire her research into an area that isn’t often top of mind: the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on families and caregivers.
Her project, funded by the Alzheimer Society, uses technology to flag caregivers who are starting to experience distress (or what sometimes we call “caregiver burden” ), in the hope that a crisis can be averted.
“I hope the research I do into caregiver burden will be helpful,” she says. “Caregivers are the backbone of this system
and we need them.”
Chances are Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia will have an impact in your life. One in 10 Ontarians over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s or another dementia. The number of Canadians with cognitive impairment including dementia is expected to double to 1.4 million by 2013.
Dr. Krista Lanctôt, Senior Scientist at Sunnybrook Research Institute, another researcher funded by the Alzheimer Society, is looking at the behaviour changes in people with dementia, and what can be done to help them manage those changes.
Dr. Lanctôt was inspired when she kept meeting people with Alzheimer’s disease who were struggling with agitation. She found herself wondering “…why do some people have agitation and other people don’t? And to my shock we didn’t know the answer to that question.”
One in five people with Alzheimer’s disease suffers from severe agitation, a condition that may speed the disease’s progress.
One of Dr. Lanctot’s colleagues, Dr. Nathan Herrmann, highlighted that “Alzheimer’s disease involves different behaviours that can be distressing to both the patient and the caregiver, behaviours like agitation and aggression.”
The Society is funding clinical trials into novel treatments for these behaviours. Some current treatments have side effects and some don’t work well, so it’s important to find a treatment that will maximize success and reduce the possibility of adverse effects.
As Dr. Herrmann advises, “If you prevent behaviours such as agitation and aggression you can prevent people from being institutionalized months or even years before the patient actually needs it.”
Dr. Frank Rudzicz, a scientist at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, was a big fan of robots as a boy. This enthusiasm
led him to pursue research developing artificial intelligence software for people with communication disabilities. The software will alleviate the immense strain on resources expected as the number of people living with dementia rises. He adds that the software “can be used to support them, to listen to them… but it can also be used to communicate with them.”
Finally, Dr. Tom Schweizer, who is the Director of Neuroscience Research Program at St. Michael’s Hospital, is being funded to develop better diagnostic tools to assess the driving ability of an individual with Alzheimer’s disease.
“If you take someone’s license away, it has serious consequences,” he explains. “They will feel isolated. They will feel like they are a burden on family members who have to drive them everywhere. When I understood just how devastating it was for them to lose their autonomy, I decided to research driving impairments among those with neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s. “
His ultimate goal is helping to keep the roads safe but also allowing patients to maintain their crucial autonomy for as long as possible.
Dr. Schweizer concludes that “Public donations… really make a huge difference.”
Donations to the Alzheimer Society are having an impact. For World Alzheimer’s Month, you CAN do something about dementia.
Act now with your gift today before the end of September and your donation will be matched by a generous supporter. So your donation will have twice the impact.
To donate to the campaign or for more information visit research.alzheimerontario.ca
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