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HelpForDementia

Resources

Alzheimer Society of Canada:
2024 Landmark Study, Volume 2
The Many Faces of Dementia in Canada
Learn More
Alzheimer Society of Canada:
Normal Aging vs. Dementia
The differences between normal aging and dementia.
Learn More
Dementia in the Workplace:
Dementia in the workplace is becoming more common.
Learn about dementia in the workplace, and what it means for you.
Learn More
Frequently Asked Questions
There are some common questions that the Alzheimer Society frequently receives. We’ve gathered the most common questions and provided their answers in this list. As you review the questions listed below, you can click “Expand” to see the answer. Or, if you don’t see your question, try typing it into the Search Bar above.

Can coconut oil prevent or treat Alzheimer’s disease?

The claim

The claim has to do with ketones. Ketones are what our bodies produce when they convert fat into energy. The primary source of energy for the brain is glucose. In Alzheimer’s disease, it’s believed that brain cells have difficulty metabolizing glucose. But the theory is that ketones that are produced in our bodies when digesting coconut oil may provide an alternative fuel source to keep the brain nourished.

The evidence

Currently, there is no research to support or refute the theory that coconut oil can prevent or treat dementia. However, the interest in coconut oil highlights some important questions to consider when evaluating research evidence:

Where was the study published?

Research results are reported in many places, including the media. But for health-care providers, researchers, policymakers and others who rely on research findings, they will typically consult peer-reviewed journals. Peer review is a system whereby an article is evaluated by experts, providing credibility to the research, including assurance that the study’s methods and conclusions are appropriate.

How was the study carried out?

There are many ways researchers could study the effects of something like coconut oil. For example, they could identify a group of people and measure how much coconut oil each one consumes, then follow them over time and compare the risk of developing dementia. This type of study is called “observational.” Researchers study peoples’ behaviours and link these behaviours to health outcomes. Observational studies can be very powerful. However, observational studies must also be interpreted in context with their susceptibility to bias. In this example, people who consume coconut oil may differ from those who do not in various ways. These differences could explain why dementia is (or is not) more common in one group. For this reason, to obtain stronger evidence of “cause and effect” researchers conduct randomized controlled trials (RCTs). With RCTs, study participants are randomly assigned to receive an intervention such as a drug, diet or lifestyle program, or not. This random assignment is meant to make the groups as similar as possible, except for having received the intervention being studied. The study participants are followed over time and their health outcomes are compared.

The bottom line

The effect of coconut oil on Alzheimer’s disease is unclear and more research is required before drawing any firm conclusions. But the interest in coconut oil reinforces the value we place on research. It’s our best hope of finding effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias and improving the quality of life and care for those affected. 

Where can I find a list of resources to help me with care planning?

Here are four separate resource links that provide you with website addresses you may want to explore. These documents refer to Care Partner checklists. Please click here (Seeds of Hope Family Learning Series—HelpForDementia) to find the checklists associated with each stage. 

Resources for Early-Stage Planning

Resources for Middle-Stage Planning

Resources for Late-Stage Planning

Resources for End-of-Life Stage Planning

 

What educational materials and emotional support are available?

The Alzheimer Society in your community can provide educational resources to help you learn more about the disease, referrals to help you access the practical support you need, and one-on-one and group support to help you cope with the emotional impact of the disease. Contact your local Alzheimer Society. Alternatively, try typing your question into the search bar above. 

Is there anyone or anything that can give me a break in caregiving?

Ask family members and friends for their help and support. Take advantage of community programs that provide respite and relief from caregiving, practical help with meals or housework and assistance with the care of the person with Alzheimer's disease. And plan ahead for both the immediate future and the long term. These are just some of the things care partners can do to make their lives a bit easier.

Contact your local Alzheimer Society for help connecting to services such as support groups, counseling and information resources.  Use the search bar above to find a Community Care Access office of Alberta Health Services close to you.  They can provide information about publicly funded respite options.

What are some quick facts on dementia in Canada?

Dementia Numbers in Canada

By 2030, researchers project that nearly 1 million people in Canada will be living with dementia. And they forecast that more than 1.7 million people in Canada will have dementia by 2050. 

  • As of January 1, 2024, we estimate that 733,040 people in Canada are living with dementia.
  • Every day, more than 350 people in Canada develop dementia. This is more than 15 every hour.
  • By 2030, nearly 1 million people in Canada could live with dementia.
  • This would be 187,000 new cases a year, 512 a day and 21 an hour, by 2030. Canada could have a 51% increase in the number of new dementia cases a year (Compared to 2020).
  • By 2030, the number of people in Canada living with dementia could increase 65% compared to 2020. (From 597,300 to 990,600.)
  • 20,000+ Canadians will develop dementia every month in the 2040s.
  • By 2050, more than 1.7 million people in Canada could have dementia.
  • This would mean, by 2050, 685 people will be diagnosed each day with dementia in Canada, or 29 every hour.
  • 6.3 million people in Canada will develop, live with and/or ultimately die with dementia between 2020 and 2050.
Caregiving and Dementia in Canada
  • Care partners of older adults with dementia provide 26 hours of care a week, on average. This compares to 17 hours a week for older adults with other health issues. (Source: Canadian Institute for Health Information)
  • Every year, family and friends provide more than 470 million hours of care to people living with dementia. This is equivalent to 235,000 full-time jobs.
  • Dementia care provided by family and friends in 2022 would equal more than $7.3 billion dollars in Canada alone.
  • By 2050, Canada will have more than 1 million care partners for people living with dementia. The care they provide will equal more than 1.4 billion hours per year, or 690,000 full-time jobs.
  • The number of care partners would nearly triple (188% increase) over 30 years (2020 to 2050).
  • 45% of care partners for seniors living with dementia show symptoms of distress. The distress rate for care partners of seniors with other health conditions is almost half that (26%). (Source: Canadian Institute for Health Information)

The recommendations section of The Many Faces of Dementia in Canada report contains further recommendations for Alzheimer societies, governments, healthcare systems, and researchers.

How do I know if a person with dementia is ready to move into a care home?

As dementia progresses, care needs increase and the person with dementia will need supervision and care both during the day and at night. It can become difficult for the care partner to meet the increasing care needs in advanced stages of dementia. Some individuals with dementia tend to leave home if they are unsupervised, leading to concerns about the safety of the individual and wandering. Other factors to consider are the care partner’s physical and mental health and their stress load in addition to the behavioural changes and sleep disturbances experienced by the person with dementia. These things can make it very challenging to care for the person at home. The time to move the person to a care facility varies based on the individuals involved and the situation. The decision is best made by the family. We encourage you to get in touch with us at 1-866-950-5465 or email info@alzheimer.ab.ca

What do I need to do to plan for future decision-making about my financial and legal affairs?

If you have Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, it is important for you to be a part of the decision-making about your financial and legal affairs, while you are able to make decisions and sign legal papers. Making arrangements in the early stages means that you are able to control your own future.

Talk to your family. It is important to ensure that your finances are managed by someone you trust. Arrange for a power of attorney authorizing someone to legally make decisions on your behalf once you are no longer able to. Talk to a lawyer about naming someone to look after your financial interests.

To find an Office of the Public Guardian close to you, please visit the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee | Alberta. They can provide additional information and guidance.

I have a young child/teen who wants to know what is happening to their grandparent. How do I handle this?

The most important way to help children or grandchildren cope with dementia is to talk openly and be willing to listen. They need the opportunity to ask questions and express their feelings without fear of a negative reaction.  Take a look at our resources below for more tips.   

 

Focus - Helping Children Understand Alzheimer Disease

 

Focus - Helping Teens Understand Alzheimer Disease

What are some tips for traveling with someone who has dementia?

We all enjoy a change of scenery and a break from routines. However, as Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias progress, changes in abilities can make it difficult to get away.

Careful planning will help you manage the changes in surroundings and routines. Here are some tips to make the trip easier:

Have a plan

  • Include the person with dementia in your planning. Give them a copy of the trip itinerary for her reference.
  • If you are planning to visit friends and family, tell them about the changes since your last visit.
  • Learn as much as you can about the place you’ll be visiting, so you can anticipate what you’ll need.
  • Think ahead about activities that may need to be adjusted.
  • Consider a holiday package, where everything is organized for you.
  • Enroll the person living with dementia in MedicAlert’s Safe & Found Program. Members receive an engraved identification bracelet, which allows police and emergency responders to quickly identify a person who gets separated.
  • Carry recent photographs, details of what the person is wearing, and preferred places of interest. This will help during a search if one is necessary.
  • Keep a copy of the name and number of your hotel in a familiar spot in the person’s purse or pocket, so they can ask for help if needed.

Simplify

Aim for as few changes in their routine as you reasonably can.

  • Try to get a direct flight.
  • If you’re traveling by car for a long distance, consider extending the time to get there and driving shorter distances each day.
  • Ask for help
  • If possible, have an additional person travel with you to help.
  • Make sure that your travel agent is aware of any special needs.
  • Inform the airline that you are traveling with a person with dementia. You may want to request early boarding, a wheelchair, transportation upon arrival, help getting on and off the plane or with stowing carry-on baggage.
  • Request seating near washrooms.
  • If you are staying at a hotel, let the staff know about your needs and explain some of the possible difficulties you think you might encounter.

Should my partner still be allowed to drive? I don’t want to tell him or her that they can’t and yet I think they shouldn’t. What can I do?

Alzheimer's disease and other dementias cause changes that affect a person's ability to drive a motor vehicle safely. A diagnosis of dementia, however, does not automatically mean that a person is incapable of driving. Some people may be capable of driving safely for some time after the diagnosis, depending on when in the disease progression the person has been diagnosed and the rate the disease progresses. Eventually, however, people with Alzheimer's disease must stop driving, as it will no longer be safe.

Look into special testing to assess the driving abilities of a person with dementia. This could be a driving simulation test and/or a road test, carried out by someone with experience in testing drivers with cognitive problems.

Use the search bar above to find a driving assessment service (such as DriveAble or MARD) in your area. If it is not available, ask a doctor to determine if and when the person is no longer able to drive.

What is the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia?

The word dementia is an umbrella term that refers to many different diseases. Different physical changes to the brain cause various types of dementia. Some dementias are reversible, meaning that they can be treated and cured, while others are irreversible, meaning that there is no cure yet.

Dementia is not a specific disease. Many diseases can cause dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia (due to strokes), Lewy Body dementia (LBD), head trauma, frontotemporal dementia (FTD), Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease. These conditions can have similar and overlapping symptoms.

Dementia is an overall term for a set of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. Symptoms may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language, severe enough to reduce a person's ability to perform everyday activities. A person with dementia may also experience changes in mood or behaviour.

What are some suggestions for preventing or delaying the onset of dementia?

The human brain is one of your most vital organs. It plays a role in every action and every thought, and just like the rest of your body, it needs to be looked after.

Can Alzheimer's disease be prevented? There are no guarantees, but healthy lifestyle choices will help keep your brain as healthy as possible as you age.

By making better lifestyle choices now, you can improve your brain's ability to sustain long-term health and fight illnesses.

In this session an expert in seniors’ health will explain what the latest research tells us about the possibility of reducing our chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease and the variety of risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s disease.

What is memory screening?

Diagnosing dementia is a complex and difficult process. There is no one test that can tell if someone does or does not have Alzheimer's disease or another dementia. One of the tests your doctor will use is a mental status test. Various forms of this test exist, but the important point is that the doctor administers and evaluates the test using skill, knowledge and experience. This is different from memory screening tests, which are done in the community without professional analysis.

Memory screening done in the community (or “population-based memory screening”), usually involves giving someone a simple mental status test. After the test, the result is a number that shows if someone may have memory problems.

Often these brief mental tests result in "false positives" and "false negatives." A "false positive" is when a person who doesn’t have Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia still fails or scores poorly on the test. A "false negative" happens when a person who does have Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia "passes" or scores well on the test.

It takes time and expertise to diagnose dementia, because the doctors first have to rule out other possible causes, such as depression, thyroid or heart disease, infections, drug reactions or alcohol abuse.

People who are experiencing memory issues accompanied by difficulties in day-to-day activities and skills should contact their health-care provider.

Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are complex diseases of the brain and qualified health care providers should be involved in diagnosing these conditions.

Online self-assessments of cognitive health are possibly useful for the screening of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias and may pose risks to users unless completed following the advice of a health provider to do so.

Scientists have raised ethical concerns with most online self-assessments for the diagnosis or screening of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, such as potential issues around the privacy and confidentiality of the information collected.

The Alzheimer Society provides information, education and support to help people with dementia and their families live as well as possible.

What is involved in getting a diagnosis?

There is no single test that can determine if a person has Alzheimer's disease. The diagnosis is made through a series of tests that help eliminate other possible causes. Until there is a conclusive test, doctors may continue to use the words "probable Alzheimer's disease." However, you should be aware that doctors making this diagnosis are accurate 80 to 90 per cent of the time.

Making the diagnosis can take time. If scans and other investigations are required, it could be 4-12 weeks, depending on waiting lists. If the person is in the early stages of dementia, a 6-12 month period of monitoring may be required before a diagnosis can be made.

I think my partner has dementia. How do I convince them to see a doctor?

Remember that many conditions have symptoms similar to dementia, so it is important not to assume that someone has dementia just because some of the symptoms are present. Strokes, depression, alcoholism, infections, hormone disorders, nutritional deficiencies and brain tumours can all cause dementia-like symptoms. Many of these conditions can be treated. 

If your partner is reluctant to see a doctor, this can be a tricky situation. They may not be aware of the changes in their abilities that you see. You might try one of the following:

  • Make sure the doctor knows of your concerns before the appointment. Be as specific as possible. This checklist can help you prepare for your doctor’s visit.
  • Suggest she go for an annual check-up. She may be more comfortable getting an overall check-up than seeing the doctor for memory problems. Many symptoms that look like Alzheimer's disease can be caused by other treatable conditions, so it's essential to get a thorough assessment if you have concerns.
  • Contact the doctor's office and ask if they can invite your partner for a check-up. If the doctor suggests the appointment, your partner might be more willing to go.
  • Be sure to provide a lot of reassurance. A calm, caring attitude at this time can help overcome the person’s very real worries and fears.

Is there a cure?

There is currently no cure for Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, nor is there a treatment that will stop the progression. Several drugs on the market and non-pharmacological treatments may help with some symptoms.

Some non-pharmacological therapies (such as music therapy, aromatherapy, pet therapy, and massage) may be beneficial to people with dementia. However, a lack of research prevents us from determining the effectiveness of many alternative treatments. The Alzheimer Society is funding projects in these areas in order to identify beneficial therapies for people with the disease.

When considering the use of natural health products, think about the following to minimize your risk:

Don't assume "natural" means "safe."

Be wary of unsubstantiated health-related claims.

Herbal remedies can change the way prescription drugs work. Be aware of interactions with other drugs and tell your doctor and pharmacist about any herbal remedies you may be taking.

What are the stages of Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer's disease progresses through different stages, which bring about changes in the person's and family's lives.

The early stage refers to people of any age who have mild impairment due to symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

The middle stage brings a more significant decline in the person’s cognitive abilities. This stage often seems the longest, and everyone involved will need help and support.

The late stage occurs when the person living with Alzheimer's disease eventually becomes unable to communicate verbally or look after themselves. Nonverbal communication becomes more critical.

You can read more about these stages in the series The Progression of Alzheimer’s Disease or type a question in the search bar above.

How fast does Alzheimer’s disease progress?

Alzheimer's disease affects each individual differently. The symptoms, the order in which they appear, and the duration of each stage vary greatly from person to person.

In most cases, the disease progresses slowly, and the symptoms of each stage may overlap, often making the move from one stage to another quite subtle. The duration of the disease is usually seven to ten years but may be much longer in some people.

I keep forgetting things, do I have Alzheimer's disease?

Most people forget things on a daily basis, such as people's names or where they put their car keys. However, this doesn't necessarily indicate Alzheimer's disease or any other form of dementia. In dementia, memory loss is more severe than forgetting things occasionally. It starts to interfere with everyday life. For instance, it might be time to see your doctor if you find your car keys but can't recall what they are used for.

There are many reasons why people become forgetful. Some medicines and drugs can affect memory. Getting a proper diagnosis is important, as memory issues can be caused by stress, depression, anxiety, vitamin deficiencies, and thyroid problems. If you are worried about your memory, if it’s getting worse, or if it's interfering with your everyday life, talk to your doctor.

My grandmother had Alzheimer's disease. Will I develop it as well?

There are two types of Alzheimer's disease.

Familial Autosomal Dominant (FAD) Alzheimer’s disease accounts for less than 5% of all cases of Alzheimer’s disease and is linked to genetics. For FAD to occur, the disease must be evident across multiple generations of a single family.

Sporadic Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of Alzheimer's disease, and it does not have a specific family link. People with this type may or may not have a family history of the disease.