Homebodies - Dementia is a growing problem


Rita Friesen
The Neepawa Banner

‘You may go now.’ I had driven an hour and a half to visit my father. Along with the Parkinson’s Disease that troubled his body, a form of dementia now changed the man I looked up to and adored. A farmer, a teacher, a lay worker in his faith family, a lover of poetry – all words really- a wise man. Walking into his room that day I knew the visit wasn’t going to be what I had hoped for. A bit of the dad present was my desire.

He recognized me, allowed me to check in on how he was doing and then, in his best principal’s voice, intoned, ‘you may go now.’ Not willing to be so summarily dismissed, I deterred, explaining that I had just arrived and was hoping to spend a bit of time with him. Dad tolerated my presence for another few minutes and repeated his instructions. I ‘goed’, now.
June is the Alzheimer Awareness Month and many towns and cities are hosting fund raising walks. World Health Organization stats inform us that every three seconds someone in the world develops Alzheimer’s, one in ten individuals over the age of 65 will suffer from it, and Canada is in the top five countries with recorded accounts of this disease. “Dementia affects 50 million people worldwide – a number that will almost triple by 2050. More than half of all people with dementia live in low and middle income countries, where as few as 10 percent of individuals receive a diagnosis. In 2018, dementia will become a trillion-dollar disease.” 
As this disease gains recognition, and for me, a fearful respect, we are learning that lifestyle choices may enhance longevity, and better mental health. We are learning that exercising the brain, staying involved with the younger generations, learning new skills ( try reversing the pattern you use when brushing your teeth!), eating well, volunteering, reducing stress, all decrease the chance of dementia and Alzheimer’s, but there is no guarantee. More study is being done, and with the odds, my odds, increasing of encountering the disease, more study needs to be done.
I recall my grandfather being diagnosed with hardening of the arteries. I know now it was a form of dementia, and he was taken to Selkirk, to finish out his days there. Harsh for everyone. My father lived out his final years in a well designed and well staffed care home. Much better. The Netherlands are working with developing safe villages. A little village with shops and restaurants, the residents have been diagnosed with dementia, the staff lives in the village with them, Safe, secure, and familiar. Research Hogewey when you have time. A community in Ontario is duplicating this concept. As near to ideal as I see it getting.
Dementia is a growing problem., one out of 20 Canadians over 65 has Alzheimer’s Disease, and that figure jumps to one in four for Canadians over 85.  June 15 Neepawa is hosting a walk to support the Manitoba Alzheimer’s Society. If you can’t walk it, please support it. For all of us.