Jill Daum and her husband John Mann, lead singer of Spirit of the West, pose for a photograph in Toronto on Friday, April 29, 2016. Mann, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 52, died Wednesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Services needed in B.C. for early-onset Alzheimer’s disease patients: doctor, advocates

More patients are being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at an earlier age

Being told he was too young to have Alzheimer’s disease would always catch Jim Mann off guard, but it was a nurse’s comment dismissing his condition that really stung.

“She looked me up and down and said, ‘Well, you look fine,’ ” said Mann, who was 58 when he was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, a term used when the form of dementia strikes people under age 65.

Mann, now 71, said the nurse made the remark in an emergency ward six years ago while he was there for an unrelated concern and mentioned he’d need his wife, Alice Mann, to stay with him because he had Alzheimer’s disease.

Mann is a passionate advocate for Alzheimer’s patients as a volunteer with the Alzheimer Society of British Columbia and said the awareness that Spirit of the West lead singer John Mann, no relation, created before his death this week will go a long way toward educating the public about the condition that can come with a lonely and isolating existence.

“It’s a cognitive disorder,” he said. “It almost gives people licence to make jokes about it or to question the legitimacy of your diagnosis just because it isn’t physical.”

Alzheimer’s patients already face enough stigma but those who are diagnosed at a younger age deal with more of it, Mann said.

“The biggest thing is questioning of the diagnosis because you’re able to have a conversation. The assumption is you don’t have it, period. I had someone say to me, ‘You don’t have a diagnosis. Look how well you’re dressed.’ “

Mann decided to see his doctor when he started becoming increasingly disoriented, disorganized and forgetful, often stopping in the middle of a task in the kitchen and trying to figure out what he was supposed to be doing next and even leaving the stove on.

ALSO READ: Here’s what you need to know about dementia, and ways to reduce your risk

His advocacy work has given him a purpose, and that’s what he said patients need to focus on so they have a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

John Mann, whose work as a songwriter for the Vancouver-based band earned him four Juno nominations, died Wednesday at age 57, five years after he announced he had early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

In 2016, the documentary “Spirit Unforgettable” captured the toll the disease had on his ability to perform but it is also a great educational tool to create awareness of the ravages of the disease, Jim Mann said.

The singer, along with his wife Jill Daum, also shared their story at events hosted by the Alzheimer Society of B.C.

Dr. Haakon Nygaard, a neurologist at the University of British Columbia’s faculty of medicine, said Alzheimer’s weakens the body because patients often lose their appetite and can’t sleep, becoming frailer and sometimes die of pneumonia or heart failure.

Patients with an early-onset diagnosis face greater challenges because they often have children still living at home and find themselves trying to keep pick-up and drop-off schedules straight while their performance at work also suffers, he said.

However, many of the services available for Alzheimer’s patients are geared toward seniors.

“What’s frustrating for us is that younger individuals have trouble accessing the right resources,” Nygaard said.

More patients are being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at an earlier age, and that may be because of greater awareness created by John Mann and others, he said.

Sharon Tong, support and education co-ordinator for the Alzheimer Society of B.C., said she links patients and families with resources in Cantonese and Mandarin, though services are also offered in Punjabi.

Shame often keeps people from revealing an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, which is sometimes wrongly connected to mental illness or myths about eating certain foods or having some connection to metals, she said.

In April, the society launched a help line in Chinese that some people feel more comfortable calling rather than asking questions in person, Tong said, adding she also facilitates community workshops and forums with guest speakers including doctors and nurses who provide education.

The society also recently developed an initiative in partnership with the City of Vancouver to train city workers and volunteers on how best to support community members living with dementia.

In January, the Alzheimer Society of Canada will launch an anti-stigma campaign for a third year with the tag line: “I have dementia. Let me help you understand.”

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Rob Morrison sworn in as Kootenay-Columbia MP

Parliament set to reconvene on Thursday with election of House Speaker, Throne Speech

LETTER: Reflections on democracy and community from former Green party candidate

Abra Brynne ran in the 2019 federal election to be Kootenay-Columbia’s MP

Basin economic snapshot shows Kootenay a mixed bag

State of the Basin report shows economic recovery from recession a slow go

B.C. woman charged in connection to stolen vehicle smash-up in Kamloops

Kersten Ina Peters was arrested in the Fraser Valley on Friday, Dec. 6

Tavares scores twice as Maple Leafs earn 4-1 win over Canucks

Vancouver sees two-game win streak snapped

UPDATED: No survivors in Gabriola Island plane crash: RCMP

Coroner confirms multiple fatalities after small plane goes down Tuesday night near Nanaimo

VIDEO: Harbour Air makes history with first electric aircraft test flight

Successful flight marks first of its kind in the world

The Grinch who Stole a Hedge: Security camera captures Chilliwack tree theft

RCMP arrives as person calmly walks away with tree in downtown area

Salmonella outbreak in Canada linked to rodents and snakes

92 cases of salmonella across six provinces, including B.C.

Meng Wanzhou wins right to more documents involving arrest at Vancouver airport

Defence lawyers allege the Huawei executive was unlawfully detained, searched and interrogated

Truck with body inside found at bottom of lake near Kootenay ferry

Investigators believe no foul play is expected but are unsure how the vehicle ended up in the Arrow Lakes

Most Read