January is Alzheimer's Awareness month in Canada.

Erica Zarazun, the public awareness coordinator for the Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan, explained the difference between "Alzheimer's" and "dementia."

"So, dementia is actually an umbrella term for a set of symptoms that cause changes in abilities, behaviors, and communications, which will affect a person's ability to perform their daily tasks."

"Dementia usually happens when there is damage to the brain that prohibits it from functioning properly, and Alzheimer's is a disease which causes dementia from the buildup of protein amyloids in the brain."

She said that while age is an important risk factor, how individuals live their lives and lifestyle habits are the main indicators of preventing dementia or developing it. 

"Usually around age 65 and over is when we start to see it most, but there is young onset dementia, which can start as early as your 30s." 

So, what are some warning signs of dementia?

"Warning signs of dementia is what we call the ABCs of dementia, so the changes in abilities, behaviors, and communication. These can include memory loss, difficulties with attention, problem solving, and language, changes in mood, and behavior issues with vision, balance, and movement." 

Zarazun explained more about what Alzheimer's Awareness month is, as building community helps with the stigma and isolation.

"We are really focusing on building connections; connections are at the heart of the Alzheimer's Society and we create connections that people can turn to and tap into when needed, and connect people living with dementia and their care partners with others who are sharing similar lived experiences."

On January 24th at 7:00 p.m., there will be an online zoom community presentation on understanding dementia, as Zarazun explained.

"People will learn about dementia: the warning signs, risk factors and how to get support with diagnosis, and it is being presented by Dr. Andrew Kirk, who is a neurologist from the University of Saskatchewan. The event is being made possible by Conexus Credit Union, and you can register by visiting our website at alzheimer.ca/sk or call 1-877-949-4141."

Zarazun said "60 per cent of people living with dementia live in their communities, and in Saskatchewan we have a lot of rural communities, so we do have resource centres throughout Saskatchewan and we've served over the last year, 300 different communities just in the province. Right now we have about 20,000 people diagnosed with dementia in Saskatchewan, and as our population ages, we expect that to triple in the next 30 years."

She added that there is a dementia helpline available for anyone across the province, and the number again is 1-877-949-4141, and they can assist individuals and/or connect them with a first-link coordinator in their area. You can also find them on Facebook