Almost half of Canadians with dementia wait too long for diagnosis

Darlene Shea
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Alzheimer Society of P.E.I. marking Alzheimer Awareness Month

CHARLOTTETOWN - As many as 50 per cent of Canadians with dementia are not diagnosed early enough, losing precious time when care and support can make a difference in their quality of life and avert unnecessary crises for their families. That's why during Alzheimer Awareness Month, the Alzheimer Society has launched a new campaign, Early diagnosis keeps your life from unraveling, to promote the benefits of early diagnosis.

Representatives from the Alzheimer Society of P.E.I., (from left) Corrine Hendricken Eldershaw, CEO; Kate MacKinnon, education co-ordinator; Dawn Hynes, office assistant; and Margie Villard, fund development co-ordinator, present a flag to Lt.-Gov. Frank Lewis which is being flown during the month of January - Alzheimer Awareness month.

Yet fear and stigma continue to be huge barriers to seeking help, notes the Alzheimer Society of P.E.I. representatives. In a recent Nanos survey, 60 per cent of Canadians polled said it would be harder to disclose if they, or someone close to them, had Alzheimer's disease compared to other diseases because of the social stigma associated with mental health issues.   

Earlier diagnosis opens the door to important information, resources and support through local Alzheimer Societies, which help people with dementia focus on their abilities to remain independent in their homes and communities longer. With early diagnosis, people can access medications that, although not effective for everyone, have the greatest impact when taken early.

An early diagnosis also gives someone the chance to explain the changes happening in their life to family and friends and allows families to plan ahead.

"We know this disease remains hidden due to stigma and we need to be the change," says Corrine Hendricken-Eldershaw, CEO of the Alzheimer Society of P.E.I.

"The Alzheimer Society supports the need for an early diagnosis and collaborates with our geriatricians. Through First Link, we work with physicians so individuals are referred to the program at the point of diagnosis. To have a confirmed diagnosis puts control in the hands of individuals, families and friends, and with education and support evidence proves they will live the journey well."

She noted her appreciation for the work of the federal government at the G8 Summit on Dementia.

"We are hopeful that Islanders will answer the G8's call to 'treat people affected by dementia with dignity and respect, and to enhance their contribution to dementia prevention, care and treatment where they can,' and 'to continue and to enhance global efforts to reduce stigma, exclusion and fear.'" (G8 Summit Declaration)

Eldershaw encourages Islanders to get involved.

"Join us on Jan. 23 for our Annual Alzheimer Awareness Conference at the Holiday Inn (in Charlottetown)."

The theme for 2014 is "Be the Change: Stop Stigma - Diagnose Early!"

Visit the Alzheimer Society website at, to learn how to spot the signs of dementia, understand the benefits of a diagnosis and prepare for a doctor's visit.



Organizations: Alzheimer Society of P.E.I., Nanos, G8 Summit on Dementia Holiday Inn

Geographic location: Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • Oldvet Youdontcare
    January 22, 2014 - 09:47

    fear and stigma?? How about being Disposable. Some of us are Not so important to our healthcare Industry. You have NO IDea what it is to be BULLIED by healthcare "professionals" .. and it Does happen more than you think. THere is the shame. Many feel ashamed to report that abuse. Now, there's a story. Seniors ashamed of being .. seniors Vets ashamed of what? serving the country that then disposes of us . Sorry but .. these articles are "interesting" .. but we NEED to change "leadership" IF we (the public) are Ever to be the ones Served. Sad.