If you are concerned about Alzheimer’s and dementia you’ll want to read this

MP Claude Gravelle (NDP - Nickel Belt)

 By David F. Rooney

Families that are going through the pain and agony of watching a loved one slip away into the mental and emotional nightmare of  Alzheimer’s and dementia should circle this date on their calendar: April 20.

That’s the day federal MP Claude Gravelle (NDP — Nickel Belt) will be in Revelstoke to speak with people about the need for a National Dementia Strategy. This free, two-hour event begins at 1 pm at the Seniors’ Centre and should provide both answers and hope for men and women afraid of the impact of dementia on their families.

Last November, Gravelle introduced a Private Member’s Bill calling for the establishment of a national dementia strategy to prepare for the rising tide of Alzheimer’s and dementia cases. The lives of 500,000 Canadians are already savaged by dementia and as Baby Boomers age, millions more may be at risk.

For Gravelle, the need for such a strategy became something of a personal quest when his mother, Leona, was diagnosed with it.

“Long before her death at 83 in 2003, she first started forgetting appointments and things on the stove,” he said in a post on his website. “It deteriorated to forgetting to take medication, to language loss, and changes in mood and behaviour. We were helpless watching a mild-mannered woman at times turn aggressive and seeing part of her true self slip away. My dad also suffered, learning to sleep with one eye open.”

Score of Revelstokians (myself included) are familiar with this kind of tale and it will be interesting to see what Gravelle has to say about his efforts to see action on his Private Member’s Bill.

According to the Alzheimer Society’s landmark report, Rising Tide: The Impact of Dementia on Canadian Society, released in 2010, without government action dementia costs to the Canadian economy will increase tenfold – from $15 billion a year to $153 billion a year – over the next 30 years.

And that’s just dollars and cents. You cannot possibly put a price tag on the emotional and psychological impact Alzheimer’s and dementia have on Canadian families.

Watching a parent ‘s mind slip away bit by bit is incredibly traumatizing, even if the parent is not ravaged by the sometimes violent and ugly personality changes that can accompany dementia.

If Alzheimer’s and dementia are an issue for your family please be sure to come out to this event on April 20.