The Rising Tide of Dementia

Looking back, Vancouver resident Jim Mann remembers the not so subtle signs that something wasn’t right.

“I would be driving the car only to realize I have no idea where I am headed, to the point of sometimes having to pull over just to get my bearings. Other times, I would get confused in what would normally be familiar situations,” says Mann.

Now Mann admits that these, and other symptoms, were the early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Officially diagnosed in January 2007, it was not something the then 58-year-old would have imagined could happen at his age.

“I have Alzheimer’s and I am under the age of 65,” adds Mann.

According to a new report released this month by the Alzheimer Society, Mann is one of approximately 70,000 Canadians under the age of 65 currently living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. Rising Tide: The Impact of Dementia on Canadian Society estimates that, today, half a million Canadians have dementia, a number that could grow to more than 1 million within a generation.

The new report also indicates that the annual economic costs associated with dementia, about $15 billion a year, are set to sore ten-fold to $153 billion a year by 2038 if nothing changes.

“Today, someone in Canada develops dementia every five minutes. In less than 30 years, there will be one new case every two minutes,” says David Harvey, Principal Spokesperson for Rising Tide. “If nothing changes, this sharp increase in the number of people with dementia will amount to a massive cumulative cost of $872 billion over a 30-year period.”

chart of impact

Recognizing the urgent need to turn the tide, the new report outlines interventions that could help alleviate dementia’s pressure on families, our health care system and economy. These proposed interventions looked at risk reduction strategies and support to people with dementia and their caregivers as a way of reducing the number of people affected and the economic impact on Canada.

This message of hope, amongst an otherwise gloomy outlook, is one especially close to Mann’s heart. Mann believes that a combination of awareness and early intervention is key.

“An early diagnosis offers you the chance to be educated on the disease and learn, for example, that socialization and physical activity – like walking – are excellent,” says Mann. “Some of us will also use this opportunity to educate. It is our chance to share our story. If we don’t advocate, then how do we shatter the myths or break the stereotype?”

Call to Action

The Alzheimer Society, Canada ‘s leading nationwide organization for people living with dementia and their caregivers, is asking Canadians to join people like Mann and champion the fight against dementia. People can help by taking care of their brain,
sharing their story, encouraging their federal and provincial governments to take action, and by making a donation to support critical research.

“Everyone needs to hear about Alzheimer’s and the related dementias. They need to be inspired to learn about brain health, and the things they can do for the good of themselves,” adds Mann, now an active volunteer with the Alzheimer Society. “Perhaps by our actions government will be encouraged to invest significantly more into this critically important area.”

Canadians can also join Memory Walks this January in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Ontario.

To download a copy of Rising Tide, or to learn more about the Alzheimer Society, please visit

Patricia Wilkinson, Manager, Media and Government Relations, Alzheimer Society of Canada, phone: 416-847-2959 | cell: 416-669-5715