Demystifying dementia

For those working in geriatric mental health, the people they care for are complex—both medically and psychologically. Dementia is one of the most prevalent conditions they deal with, but for many families faced with it, the disease remains a mystery.

Not all dementia is the same. There are many types that can present in various ways. Even two people with the same type of dementia can behave differently and progress at different speeds.

"For people in the early stages of dementia, there can be still a lot of quality of life ahead," says Dr. Lori Harper, Clinical Psychologist at Villa Caritas, Alberta’s only stand-alone geriatric mental health hospital. “Individuals who have dementia can still get enjoyment and meaning from their lives."

"Intervening earlier and preparing the patient and their family is key," says Dr. Candace Walker, Geriatric Psychiatrist at Villa Caritas. "Often, medical intervention happens once things have fallen apart: their home is a disaster, they haven't eaten or bathed in awhile, and are driving unsafely and may have been in multiple accidents."

Both Lori and Candace feel that while the natural progression of the illness won’t change, quality of life can.

Many family relationships have failed because those ties have been strained. Early intervention can improve quality of life for both patients and their families, and can minimize stress for everyone. 

Demystifying dementia infographic

Alzheimer's Society of Alberta and NWT. 2016. Accessed Nov. 22, 2016, from

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