What is dementia?

Dementia is not a normal part of aging. Check out this video to learn more about how dementia affects the brain.

Dementia is not a single disease in itself, but a general term to describe symptoms such as impairments to memory, communication and thinking that progress and become severe enough to impact our day-to-day activities. Learn more about the brain and dementia


Types of dementia

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, followed by vascular dementia. Rarer types are Lewy Body and Parkinson’s dementias, fronto-temporal dementia, and dementias due to alcohol or drug abuse, depression, or head injury. Learn more about the differences between Alzheimer’s and dementia, or about other types of dementia.


Progression and Treatment

Dementia is marked by gradual changes, roughly separated into stages (early, middle, late). In most cases, dementia is irreversible, and progressive. There is no cure for common forms such as Alzheimer’s disease. Treatments can reduce symptoms and slow the rate of decline in some persons. Learn more about reversible causes of dementia, the stages of Alzheimer’s and treatment options

10 steps to improve your brain health and reduce the risk of dementia: Work-out your brain Learn new things, play brain games Get involved In your community, at your workplace, volunteer Get moving Walk, run, climb, bike, dance, yoga, lift Get a check-up Be on track to avoid cardio-vascular problems and diabetes Protect your head Wear a helmet, wear your seatbelt, avoid falls Shake up your routine Change how you normally do something to build new connections in the brain Meet up with friends and family Go out or stay in, just be together. De-stress your life Find time to relax, get enough sleep, don’t let stress ‘stick’ Go Mediterranean Eat healthy fruits and veggies of every colour, omega 3 oils (olive oil, fish) Know Yourself Track and maintain a healthy blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and weight


Be dementia-friendly

In the Champlain region, covering Renfrew County, Ottawa, and Eastern Counties, an estimated 20,000 people have dementia. They will live in your community for two to 10 years. Everyone has a role to play in creating more dementia-friendly communities.

Watch this series of short videos demonstrating four simple steps to make your community more dementia friendly.

Listening Skills

Approach Strategy

Reducing Anxiety

Handling Tasks

More ways to be more dementia-friendly:

  • Learn about dementia: Learn to recognize behaviours typical of dementia. For instance, try to be patient if you see a senior struggling at the supermarket check-out. Help a person on the street who appears agitated, confused, or lost.
  • Lend a hand: If a family is living with dementia, offer to mow the lawn, take out the trash, or drop by for a visit. Families can use help with day-to-day tasks, and socializing is very important.
  • Talk about dementia: If you or a friend is impacted in some way, talk about it together. Support each other practically and emotionally, and remain hopeful.
  • Get involved: Consider volunteering with a local community service agency. There are many opportunities to help.
  • Watch this video by Trinity College Dublin, How can we include people with dementia in our community?
  • Visit Dementia Friends Canada, and support their campaign.


Are you or is someone you know experiencing symptoms?

Learn more about the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s disease, and about how and why to get diagnosed early.

Resources for assessment and diagnosis

Talk to your doctor about the best way to get assessed in your area.

Your local Alzheimer Society can help: Ottawa and Renfrew County, Cornwall and District

Understand your diagnosis

Understanding dementia is important so you can prepare for the changes to come. Become informed, and start planning early to support your quality of life now and in the future.

Receiving a diagnosis of dementia can be difficult. It’s normal for you and your family to experience a wide range of emotions. From relief at knowing the diagnosis, to apprehension about what’s in store. From embarrassment to acceptance, and from fear to anger.


What you can do



Get dementia support

Take advantage of the many dementia resources in your community. Connect with your local Alzheimer Society to find comfort, information, and understanding. There are ways to live better with dementia.

Getting support is important. Watch these videos where local families share their experiences: No thanks, we’re fine and Living Well - Rethink Dementia

Get support now:
Alzheimer Society of Ottawa and Renfrew County
Alzheimer Society of Cornwall and District

Caring for someone with dementia

Your family member with dementia will become increasingly dependent on you for help with day-to-day activities. Caregivers can become stressed, frustrated, and often mystified about how to provide care. Having knowledge about dementia and support throughout the disease helps.

Contact your local Alzheimer Society (Ottawa and Renfrew County, Cornwall and District) for help choosing programs and services to meet your needs. Find other useful resources here: www.champlainhealthline.ca/


Must haves

  1. Get help

    Develop a network of support as soon as possible that includes family members, friends, neighbors, community and health care services. Here’s why: No thanks, we’re fine
  2. Get educated

    Learn about dementia and ensure other close family and friends learn too. Become knowledgeable about changes in mood, behavior, and communication. Know what programs and services are available to help.
  3. Start now

    Make plans for the future while the person with dementia can contribute. Talk about finances, life goals, transportation, in-home services, and long-term care.


Caregiver stress

Family caregivers say that day-to-day life can get overwhelming, especially if you do not have an adequate support network. Try not to do everything yourself. Reduce stress and avoid burnout by taking some time out.


Caregivers speak: why breaks are essential

  1. You will stay healthier physically and emotionally.
  2. You will be a better, more patient caregiver.
  3. If you burn out and get sick, who will care for your family member?
  4. You will have a better quality of life.
  5. You will feel less isolated.
Check out these resources to help you manage stress:
www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-caregiver-stress-burnout.asp www.helpguide.org/articles/caregiving/support-for-alzheimers-and-dementia-caregivers.htm


Support for caregivers

Help around home

Consider ordering in meals or saying “Yes” when someone offers to cook or do chores and errands. Help in Ottawa, Eastern Counties, and Renfrew County

Take a Break

Take advantage of adult day programs in your community, or for some people, in-home care works better. Check out these services by contacting the Champlain Community Care Access Centre, or your local Community Resource Centre.

Education about dementia

Your local Alzheimer Society offers free education about every stage of dementia. Alzheimer Society of Ottawa and Renfrew County, Alzheimer Society of Cornwall and District.


Support Groups

Learn from others also caring for a friend or family member with dementia and share solutions. Alzheimer Society of Ottawa and Renfrew County, Alzheimer Society of Cornwall and District.

Help with behaviour and mood changes in the person with dementia

You may find these changes difficult to cope with. They may also cause distress for the person with dementia. Learn more about behaviours, contact your local Alzheimer Society (Ottawa and Renfrew County or Cornwall and District), or see your family doctor for referral to specialized geriatric services.


It’s normal to experience complex emotions like grief, loss, guilt, anger, frustration, sadness, and hopelessness. Counselling can help you understand and cope with these feelings. Alzheimer Society of Ottawa and Renfrew County, Alzheimer Society of Cornwall and District.

ReThink health-care for dementia

How to care for persons with dementia

Interactions with the health-care system can be stressful, even under normal circumstances. For the person with dementia, they can be even more difficult, because they may already be confused and apprehensive.

Your empathy and understanding can help these interactions to be a positive experience for you, and for the families affected by dementia.

Learn more about how you can help. Small changes for a dementia friendly community.


Quick tips for a person-centered approach:


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Talk directly to the
person with dementia,

not just to their caregiver, when asking questions or relaying information.

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Communicate slowly.
Give the person time to process and respond before continuing.

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Communicate in a clear and sensitive way.
For instance, ask one question at a time. Give information in small chunks and ask questions to make sure you have been understood.


Understand changing emotions and behaviour

People with dementia progress through the disease in different ways, but all will experience some changes in emotions and behavior. For example, the person may feel overwhelmed more easily, or they may seem more remote, distracted, anxious, or easily irritated.

Behaviours in the middle to late stages of the disease may include apathy, agitation, paranoia, and asking repetitive questions. With hands-on care, the person may even lash out, or pull away fearfully. A gentle and persuasive approach can make your interactions more positive and effective.

Remember – it’s not personal. It’s the disease! Look for the meaning behind any reaction, and identify and minimize what triggers the person with dementia.

Tips for a more positive visit:
  • Minimize anxiety triggers. For instance, offer them an area free from noise and distractions.
  • Put your patient and their caregiver at ease. Your tone of voice, choice of words and body language can all help.
  • Read their body language to understand how they are feeling.
  • Learn more: your local Alzheimer Society can connect you with resources and education


Resources for health-care providers

Help with assessment, diagnosis, and management of dementia

Regional Geriatric Program of Eastern Ontario
The Champlain Healthline website – section on dementia
Geriatric Psychiatry Community Services of Ottawa
Alzheimer Society of Canada: Resources for health-care providers: Screening and Diagnosis
Video: I Am A Family Doctor Is There A Good Way To Check Out A Memory Complaint?


First Link®

The Alzheimer Society’s First Link® program provides support, education, and resources to people living with dementia. You can refer families directly to First Link®. Connect with First Link® now:
Alzheimer Society of Ottawa and Renfrew County
Alzheimer Society of Cornwall and District

The Alzheimer Society also has other resources for doctors and other health-care providers.

E-learning module: for staff in Long Term Care – Partners in Transition: Staff and Families working together