Dementia is a term used to describe a general group of brain disorders that are progressive and degenerative and eventually fatal. Symptoms include memory loss, poor judgment and language difficulty as well as sudden or unusual changes in behaviour and personality.  Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.  Other types include Vascular dementia, Frontotemporal dementia and Lewy body dementia.  

Age is the biggest risk factor, but the causes for dementia are not fully understood. Until a cure is found, early diagnosis and intervention are our best hope. The Alzheimer Society encourages Canadians to learn the warning signs.

Warning Signs

  • Repeating questions multiple times
  • Forgetting recent events, conversations, appointments and faces
  • Getting lost or confused in familiar places
  • Having problems following simple instructions, operating appliances or even driving
  • Confusing dates, having difficulty counting change or calculating numbers
  • Showing signs of apathy, agitation, isolation or paranoia

Why is early diagnosis important?

Depression, thyroid disease or a toxic reaction to medication sometimes result in dementias that can be reversed and possibly cured. Early diagnosis rules out these treatable conditions that often mimic the signs of dementia.

Diagnosis will help identify the type of dementia because each one has different characteristics. People with Lewy Body dementia, for example, will experience profound visual hallucinations. Knowing that a particular behaviour is part of the disease process is reassuring for families.

"Early diagnosis also makes all the difference in the way people live with dementia when support and appropriate treatment begin early in the disease process."

Early diagnosis also makes all the difference in the way people live with dementia when support and appropriate treatment begin early in the disease process.  The Alzheimer Society offers many programs and services, including education seminars, support groups and counselling, in over 150 communities across Canada.

Can Alzheimer’s be prevented?

Not yet, but you can reduce your risk.

  • Get moving. Physical activity keeps your heart pumping. A healthy heart means a healthy brain.  
  • Stay connected and challenged. Social and mental activity help build cognitive reserve.
  • Eat right. A diet that benefits your heart is also good for your brain.


  • Over half a million Canadians have dementia today; this number will top 1.1 million by 2038.
  • Dementia will cost $153 billion dollars per year by 2038.
  • Demand for services will intensify. Today family caregivers provide 231 million hours per year looking after someone with dementia; by 2038, their annual hours will more than triple to 756 million.
  • After age 65, the risk for dementia doubles every five years.
  • One in four Canadians wait a year or more before seeing their doctor after noticing the first signs of dementia.