Sudbury

Alzheimer's caregivers, patients are primarily women: society

The Alzheimer Society of Sudbury-Manitoulin is campaigning to let people know that women represent 70 per cent of those who are ill — as well as who are caregivers.

Sudbury-Manitoulin Chapter says women represent 70 per cent of ill and caregivers

Janet Gasparini looked after her mother who had vascular dementia. The Alzheimer Society of Sudbury-Manitoulin says more awareness is needed so families can access help. (Kate Rutherford/CBC)

The Alzheimer Society of Sudbury-Manitoulin is campaigning to let people know that women represent 70 per cent of those who are ill — as well as who are caregivers.

Sudbury’s Janet Gasparini knows that statistic well, as she took her mother in for the last nine months of her life when she was suffering from vascular dementia.

Gasparini said she is glad to have memories of her mother before her illness, including a quilt they cross-stitched together, which she recently had refurbished.

Gasparini and her mother worked on this quilt together before her mother became ill. (Kate Rutherford/CBC)

“I felt like it was a Christmas present from heaven because it was this thing that she and I had spent all this time — many, many years ago — working on ... when she was healthy and well,” she said.

Gasparini said taking in her sick mother was life-altering.

“It’s like having a baby when you’re 55,” she said. “Your life is totally restricted. You’re getting up at night. Your time is not your own.”

She said she couldn’t have cared for her mother without the support of the Alzheimer Society.

More awareness needed

The executive director of the Alzheimer Society of Sudbury-Manitoulin, Lorraine Leblanc, said the burden can be overwhelming.

She said women live longer and, because they’re providing care to another, they may overlook Alzheimer's symptoms in themselves.

“So we need to sort of build more awareness in women to understand the warning signs and also connect them with services that they can access through the Alzheimer Society,” she said.

Across the province, the society said about 200,000 Ontario residents have Alzheimer's disease. There are 5,200 people in Sudbury, North Bay and Manitoulin Island who have the disease.

Warning signs include memory loss, impaired judgment and changes in personality and behaviour.

Clarifications

  • A previous version of this story stated Gasparini's mother had Alzheimer's disease.
    Jan 08, 2015 11:49 AM ET

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