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From The Sudbury Star:
By Lynne Reynolds


Every eight seconds, a baby-boomer is turning 65. The likelihood of symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia doubles every five years after age 65.

Among people over 85, dementia affects one in two. These are astounding statistics.

Longer life expectancies and improved medical technologies are creating a veritable tsunami of boomers who are at risk of contracting dementia or dementia-related diseases such as Alzheimer's in the next two decades.

Alzheimer's is the most common cause of nonreversible dementia in the elderly -- the loss of intellectual functions, such as thinking, remembering and reasoning which is of sufficient severity to interfere with an individual's daily function and ability to live independently.

Not to be mistaken for a psychiatric disorder, Alzheimer's stems from an organic neurological disease. It affects the rich and the poor, white-collar and blue, men and women. It steadily robs its victims of memory, judgment and dignity, often depleting their caregivers and families both emotionally and financially.

Alzheimer's affects the patient's ability to use words and work with figures. Early symptoms include change in personality, mood and behaviour. Language, speech, movement and coordination are affected as the disease progresses. Ultimately, patients with Alzheimer's disease become totally reliant on their caregivers for their survival.

Many of us have already been affected, directly or indirectly, by this insidious disease for which there is no known cure. It is a disease that steals the life of those who contract it and places enormous stress on families and caregivers. To date, there is no cure.

"Dementia is more than a health issue, it's one of the defining social challenges of our generation", says Lorraine LeBlanc, executive director of the Alzheimer Society Sudbury-Manitoulin branch. LeBlanc says that it will take tremendous commitment from health and care services, as well as the volunteer sector, to transform the services which will be required right here in our community.

"We need to ensure that the public is aware of the effects of this disease on our community services and that they respond to our urgent call for planning, for fundraising, for volunteers and champions," adds Ms. LeBlanc.

And here's another staggering prediction by aging experts: in the next couple of decades, Alzheimer's has the potential to consume our entire health care budget. Are we deploying sufficient resources, scientific talent and problem-solving technologies to save our collective future?

How will our governments at every level -- municipal, provincial and federal -- address the epidemic coming our way?

There is some speculation that a cure for Alzheimer's is in the works with a target date of 2020. Will we beat it before it beats us?

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