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So we’ve rounded up four riveting Alzheimer’s ideas we’ve encountered recently, two from the booming field of Alzheimer’s research and two eye-openers from the arts world.
1. Women make up the majority of patients:
According to the Alzheimer’s Society, women make up 72 per cent of Canadians with the disease. On top of that, 70 per cent of caregivers are also female.
"Alzheimer's disease is really a woman's issue," Mimi Lowi-Young, CEO of the Alzheimer Society told The Canadian Press, adding that a large proportion of women with early-onset (under age 65) Alzheimer’s are women.
2. Behaviour, not memory loss, may be a first clue:
Memory loss is only one clue in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s – but it’s the one we all worry about most. But research is accumulating to remind us that mood and behaviour changes can be an early warning signs, too.
In a new study in the journal Neurology, researchers found those with dementia had twice the risk of developing depression, delusions, anxiety and irritablity – and that these symptoms preceded memory loss.
3. Poetry may lurk in conversations with Alzheimer's patients:
In a new memoir, Vancouver author Cathie Borrie finds poetry and humour in conversations with her mother, who had Alzheimer’s. Instead of correcting her, Borrie decided to follow her mother’s lead. See some of the conversations here.
As the Globe and Mail’s John Allemang put it in a piece on Borrie, "Why do we overlook the beguiling language and memorable storytelling right in front of us simply because we’re so fixated on ideas of decline and disappearance?"
4. Movies soften the Alzheimer’s reality:
In a piece titled "Dementia but prettier," New York Times writer Paula Span points out the many high-cheekboned actors who have portrayed dementia patients in film – including Julie Christie in Away From Her, Genevieve Bujold in Still Mine and now Julianne Moore in Still Alice.
And with Moore, she suggests filmmakers have found a way to cast the youngest, prettiest patient yet – thanks to the dramatic potential of the "early onset" diagnosis.
Span writes that even these sensitive portrayals reflect an unwillingness to step into the real pain of the disease. While she writes that she applauds the films and the actors, "But I also found myself looking at the screen and thinking, 'This is not the way it is.'"
Looking for more information related to Alzheimer's? Help for caregivers is here and here's how exercise plays a role in prevention.