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.

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 services to find comfort, information, and understanding. There are ways to live better with dementia. Visit champlaindementianetwork.ca to find local resources available to you.

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

Plan your journey

When a diagnosis of dementia is received there are so many feelings, fears and plans to make. While the dementia journey is different for every person and family, there will come a time when deeper conversations are difficult. Like talking about what you want in your care today and in the future.

Creating an Advance Care Plan allows us to reflect on our values and how they guide care decisions. It guides us to provide direction to our family, friends and professional caregivers so they never need to guess what we want. It brings peace of mind and is a gift our loved ones will appreciate.

Working in partnership with the Champlain Hospice Palliative Care Program, the Champlain Dementia Network has pulled together a number of resources to help you think through – and talk through – advance care planning.

Advance care planning resources

Shape the conversation

Separate fact from fiction when it comes to advance care planning: Myths and Realities

Shape the conversation

Use this personalized guide to help shape the conversation about advance care planning you need to have with your loved ones.

Learn more

Use the Speak Up Advance Care Plan workbook to guide you or check out this list of other helpful resources


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.


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 Resilience

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. Resilience is the ability to adapt well to significant stress, threats, trauma, tragedy – such as illness, family or work problems, financial concerns, dying or the death of someone close to you. Resilience allows you to face adversity and ‘bounce back’ to your previous state, or even ‘bounce forward’ by incorporating new experiences, growing, and being better positioned for positive outcomes in the future.

Take this quiz, and find out what the results
might mean for you as a caregiver
and what you might want to think about.


Working towards caregiver resilience



Emotional Self-Care

Give yourself permission to feel your feelings, do not judge them. Notice how your emotions connect to your body – what do you feel in your body when you are frustrated, happy, sad, excited, anxious.

Be aware that your feelings come and go –pay attention to observe them changing. Speak to yourself gently and compassionately. Live according to your values.

Emotional self-care can be difficult. You may try to bottle up your feelings, push them down deep, or distract yourself from feeling what you do. Becoming aware of your emotions will help you learn to live with how you feel and share it with others.

Try naming your emotion, to tame it.

Name it to tame it!

Research shows by saying the emotion out loud, it will begin to lessen the hold it has on you.

“I feel guilty.”
“I feel scared.”
“I feel worried.”

Use this emotion wheel to help you identify your emotion(s) in this moment and then just sit with it for a while, not needing to do anything. Just let it be.


Spiritual Self-Care

What brings you a sense of internal peace? Do you feel calm and fulfilled when you are – in nature, at a religious ceremony, relaxing, nourishing your body with food, setting good boundaries (knowing when to say yes or no), feeling gratitude, enjoying physical touch, reading, volunteering, or being mindful through movement or meditation?

Spiritual self-care is deeply personal. It will look differently for everyone. When you do your preferred spiritual activities, you feel more connected to others in the world, it will reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.

It is very important that you make the time to nurture yourself in a way that is meaningful for you. The connection to yourself, your needs, and others, will help sustain you during the difficult times you will face as a caregiver.

Exercise Nourishing, Depleting or Neutral

Make a list of all of the things you may do in a typical day. Try to remember as many as you can. Now, next to each item on the list, write N for Nourishing, D for Depleting or 0 for Neutral.

This exercise will assist you in recognizing what gives you energy and betters your mood and what saps your energy or dampens your mood.

Psychological Self-Care

Caregiving can be very challenging. The many different demands placed you can lead to stress and sometimes distress. Learn to recognize signs of burnout so you can respond immediately:

  • loss of a sense of humour, persistent sense of failure, anger/resentment, progressively more cynical, afraid and lonely, sensitive to criticism, cannot be bothered, depressed, feelings of panic
  • Are you noticing some of these regularly? Is this new to you and how you have coped in the past?

Speak to yourself kindly and compassionately. Try to treat yourself the same way you would treat a beloved friend.

Physical Self-Care

Looking after your physical well-being will affect your mood and health. Which of these possibilities appeals to you?

Get adequate sleep, eat healthy food, move your body in a way that feels good to you, drink water, find time to stretch and breathe, take mini-breaks, rest, take a bath, step outside into sunlight and fresh air.

Make a plan to incorporate a few physical self-care ideas into every day!

Try some of these stretches and yoga poses
to help alleviate stress.


Social Self-Care

The life of a caregiver can become very narrow and your social support network can dwindle away. It is important to ask for help from friends, family, neighbours and others.

Asking for help doesn’t make you selfish or incapable. It means you are REALISTIC – there is only so much you can do on your own.

Here are some tips for asking or accepting help:


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Keep a list of things you need help with (pick up groceries, drop clothes at dry cleaner, get medication), so that you can ask someone to help with a specific task. Lean on the people who care about you.

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Ask for help to coordinate meal deliveries, rides or visits.

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Consider who would want to help with particular needs - someone who loves to cook can make a meal, or a dog loving neighbour can take yours for a walk. People want to know they are helping in a way that feels helpful to you.

Community Resources

You are not in this alone and there are many community support services to help you along the way.

Whether you need someone to talk to, are looking into the various respite support options, inquiring about financial, social and educational options, or just don’t know where to go, there is help available.

If you are in Ottawa or Renfrew County, connect with The Dementia Society of Ottawa and Renfrew County.

For Cornwall and District, connect with The Alzheimer's Society.

Search for home and community support services near you with Caredove.


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

Please visit champlaindementianetwork.ca