What is dementia?

Dementia is a collective term used to describe various symptoms of cognitive Decline, such as forgetfulness. It is a symptom of several underlying diseases and brain disorders. Dementia is not a single disease, but a general term to describe symptoms of impairment in memory, communication, and thinking.

Dementia is a buildup of plaque in the brain, which is detrimental to the cells. Eventually, dementia will destroy the brain. “Dementia ends up involving much more than just the brain,” says Dr. Claudia Kawas, professor of neurology at the University of California, Irvine. “We forget the brain does everything for us — controls the heart, the lungs, the gastrointestinal tract, the metabolism.”


There are over 400 different types of dementia, the most common of which are Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

A number of dementia symptoms include a gradual onset and continuing decline of memory; changes in judgement and reasoning; changes in mood and behaviour; and the inability to perform familiar tasks.

There are about 100 diseases associated with the symptoms of dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and accounts for 64 percent of all dementia cases in Canada. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative and terminal disease of the brain, which causes thinking and memory to become seriously impaired.

How is dementia caused

Dementia’s cause is unknown but many factors can contribute to the different types including lifestyle choices and genetics. Healthy eating and exercise can reduce the risk of developing dementia but there is no cure and no guarantee that those actions will prevent it.

How can I talk to my loved one?

Try to meet your loved one where they are. Validate their feelings, even if they don’t make sense to you, and redirect them to a safe and meaningful activity. Remember that all behaviour has meaning and often, escalating behaviour is the result of an unmet need that they are unable to identify or communicate (i.e. hunger, need to use a bathroom, bored etc.) Try to support your loved one to have meaningful activity, spontaneity and companionship in their day-to-day life.

Never Instead

(No mom, you don’t have to pick the kids up, we’re grown now)


(Mom, let’s get a cup of tea while we wait to get the kids)


(Mom, you didn’t ask to use the washroom and had an accident)


(Hey mom, let’s go try on those new slacks we got you yesterday)


(Mom – I’ve told you 4 times already, I’m at work – stop calling me)


(Thanks for the call mom – I’m in a meeting right now, I’ll see you soon)

Say “Remember”

(No mom, remember Dad died last year)


(Tell me again how you and Dad met)

Say “You can’t”

(Mom, you can’t drive anymore)

Find out what they can do

(There’s a bus tour tomorrow that you can go on)

Command or demand

(Mom, it’s time to go to sleep now)

Ask and Model

(Mom, would you like to put on your pajamas? I’ll be heading to bed shortly)


(Mom, I already told you…)

Encourage and Praise

(Wow Mom, great job on your hair today)

The Harsh Reality - Dementia is on the Rise on Vancouver Island

Dementia affects everyone differently and progresses at different speeds for each person. The average number of years between early symptoms and complex dementia is 8 to 12, but for some people it is anywhere between 3 and 20 years.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society Rising Tide Report, one in five baby boomers will develop dementia by 2038. That’s an additional 400,000 people in Canada.

Ten years from now, one in three people over the age of 85 (or more than 3,300 individuals in Central Vancouver Island) will be afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, plus an additional 1,880 with other forms of dementia. Add to that an additional 5,000 for the number of people who will develop dementia in their 60s and 70s.

Currently, for all of Vancouver Island there are only 700 long-term beds set aside for people with various stages of dementia. There is a huge gap between the care homes available and current and future needs on the Island.

Sources: Veteran’s Affairs Mental Health Fact Sheet, Dementia Care Foundation and Alzheimer’s Society of Canada.

Dementia Resources
  • Alzheimer SocietyThe Alzheimer Society in Canada is a federation of 140 independent societies across the country. The local groups offer an array of programs and services, including caregiver support groups, private and family counselling, on-site and in-home respite care, education workshops and day programs. The national and provincial associations fund research, do education and lobbying.
  • B.C. Alzheimer’s SocietyThe local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Society offers a wide variety of resources, including in-person and telephone workshops that are helpful to those recently diagnosed with dementia and their families. In the Mid Island there is a Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregivers Support Group that meets monthly at Eden Gardens.

Skip to content