Federation of Quebec Alzheimer Societies

Federation of Quebec Alzheimer Societies

January 11, 2006 10:30 ET

100th Anniversary of the Discovery of Alzheimer's Disease: Hope for People Living with the Disease and their Families

MONTREAL, QUEBEC--(CCNMatthews - Jan. 11, 2006) - On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the discovery of Alzheimer' disease, the Federation of Quebec Alzheimer Societies is launching a message of hope to people with the disease and to their families. Over the last twenty years, significant progress has led to improvements in their quality of life. Today they can take advantage of new treatments and a variety of intervention programs, and gain access to community-based resources adapted to their needs. Moreover, growth in the concentration of research in this area gives grounds to hope for major breakthroughs in the course of the next few years. Although much remains to be done to offer people with Alzheimer's disease and their families better living conditions, some paths are opening up to them.

Promising research

Research now under way allows us to hope for the development of a remedy, in a few years' time, that will control this disease or at least check its progress. Explains Dr. Serge Gauthier, Professor in the departments of Psychiatry, Neurology and Neurosurgery and Medicine at McGill University and Director of the Alzheimer Disease Research Unit of the McGill Centre for Studies in Aging, the drugs currently available can control certain symptoms: "Generally speaking, they help maintain functional independence. The effect on symptoms lasts an average of a year or two. After that we find a progressive loss of effectiveness. Fortunately, a new medication exists for treatment of moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease. It can be used during the third year, and for most patients still at home."

Exercises to slow development of the disease

Much research under way in the area of neuropsychology is exploring the possibilities of cognitive re-education among people who are at risk of developing the disease. That re-education is aimed at enabling them to temporarily regain their autonomy. Raymond Girard, a person with Alzheimer's disease we spoke to, told us: "I regularly do mental activity to keep my brain working. I have a little trouble talking, so I read aloud, in both French and English, and that helps me somewhat."

Dr. Sylvie Belleville, Professor in the Department of Psychology at the Universite de Montreal and associate director for clinical research at the Institut Universitaire de Geriatrie de Montreal, explains that several strategies can be taught to people liable to develop the disease: "For example, they can learn to memorize names by focusing on visual imagery, learn to use memory aids in an effective way, learn to connect information, to memorize things that they already know and finally learn to organize the information that they must retain. When used appropriately, these strategies can slow the impact of the disease on the functioning and well-being of the person and teach him or her to better control the situation."

Adapted intervention programs

Other researchers have focused on the situation of family members who take care of an ailing relative. Nearly 25 percent of Canadians have a family member living with Alzheimer's disease,(1) and families care for their relative at home for an average of eight to ten years.(2)

Dr. Francine Ducharme, holder of the Desjardins Chair in nursing care for the elderly and families at the research centre of the Institut Universitaire de Geriatrie de Montreal, stresses the importance of adequate support: "Access to a psycho-educational intervention program that offers care and support and adaptation strategies that respond to their needs has positive effects on the mental health and the quality of life of caregivers in the family. That support enables them to enjoy a more harmonious experience with their loved one suffering from Alzheimer's disease."

Innovative community-based resources

"It's unfortunate, but families often wait too long to ask for help from those around them or from support organizations," says Nathalie Ross, Executive Director of the Federation of Quebec Alzheimer Societies. She explains that the Alzheimer societies that are members of the Federation have over the years set up a number of programs and activities to support and help care for people with Alzheimer's disease and their families: "Those resources are aimed at responding to the needs of families. They're based on a philosophy of humanist intervention that emphasizes respect for the relationships between persons with the disease and those around them, and considering the family as a partner. Additionally, everything is done to promote the establishment of a relationship of trust with caregivers so that persons with the disease can feel accepted and useful." She adds that respect for the pace, the dignity and the reality of the person is primordial and that caregivers must learn to set aside their personal needs in order to understand and respond to those of the person with the disease. They must also accept the integration of their reality, even if it does not correspond to the usual standards.

About the Federation of Quebec Alzheimer Societies

The Federation of Quebec Alzheimer Societies brings together 21 regional Alzheimer societies in Quebec and is a member of the Alzheimer Society of Canada. It has taken as its mission the alleviation of the personal and social consequences of Alzheimer's disease, the support of persons with the disease and of their families, the defence of their rights, the dissemination of information about Alzheimer's disease, the sensitizing of public opinion, and support for research.

For additional information or to make a financial contribution to the Alzheimer societies, call 1-888-MEMOIRE or visit the following Internet site: www.alzheimerquebec.ca.

(1) The Aluminium Association Alzheimer Disease Survey, Public Opinion Strategies, 1997.
(2) Thompson C. & Thompson, G. (2003). Support for Carers of People with Alzheimer's Type Dementia. In Cochrane Library, 3, 1-24. Oxford Update Software.

Contact Information

  • Allard Hervieu Communication
    Sophie Allard
    (514) 808-9474
    Allard Hervieu Communication
    Marie-Francoise Hervieu
    (514) 972-9112
    Source :
    Federation of Quebec Alzheimer Societies