The Alzheimer's Society in Sudbury has seen an increase of 15 per cent more people using their services in the last two years.

Executive director Lorraine LeBlanc wants to see more work done with genetics.


Lorraine LeBlanc, executive director of the Alzheimer Society of Sudbury-Manitoulin. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

"There's still so much unknown about the disease and research is so much needed in every time that there is a research piece, it adds to our knowledge of the disease," she said.

About 3,500 people are known to have Alzheimer's in the Sudbury-Manitoulin area, of which only eight per cent are connected to genetic mutations on a number of chromosomes.

"Certainly we ask if there's a biological trend whenever anyone comes into the society," LeBlanc said.

"We start questioning their history, we look at familial, but it doesn't mean that if your parent does have or had a diagnosis that you're going to get it."

But no matter how Alzheimer’s manifests itself, the sooner one is diagnosed, the better, she said.

"Early diagnosis can help that person in preparing and getting the help and support to have a better quality of life," LeBlanc said, noting that it's also "dependent on the person and the choice[s] that they make. We should be seeking a healthier lifestyle, doing cognitive exercises."


Both of Kate Gravelle's parents died of Alzheimer's and she is now concerned she's seeing signs of the disease in her older sister. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

Exercising minds

Part of 66-year-old Kate Gravelle's daily routine to exercise her brain to improve memory, speed and facial recognition involves matching Chinese characters on the computer.

"If I can keep going with it, I think OK, I'm OK for today," the Lively resident said.

Both her parents were diagnosed with Alzheimer's and now she's seeing possible signs of the disease in her older sister.

That makes her worried about what her genetics might hold for her.

"The thing that breaks my heart the most is that I might not know my kids, or my husband, or my family."

Gravelle said she's not going to get tested until there's some way to beat the disease.

At the Alzheimer's Society of Sudbury Manitoulin, clients exercise their body and their mind using different therapies.

LeBlanc said taking proactive steps like these are important in light of Canada's rapidly aging population.

She noted there has been a 15- to 20 per cent increase in admissions in all programs within the last two years, which is consistent with provincial and national trends.