January is Alzheimer Awareness Month

Happy New Year and wishes for a great 2018!

This year, as I do every January, I take some time to reflect on the growing number of Canadians who will be affected by dementia, either themselves, or for someone they care about. Just last month, CTV featured an update from the World Health Organization about the staggering numbers and costs to countries around the world, if we do not pay greater attention to this challenge – What WHO says


Occupational therapists are working in various settings across Canada, helping persons with dementia and their carers to live every day in the best way possible. They are providing education about the disease;  giving individuals the strategies they need to cope; identifying strengths, maximizing function and abilities, and doing their best to enhance quality of life.

You can check out a message from the Government of Canada here. 

I can also share news from the many advances being made at Baycrest

What are YOU doing to recognize this disease and help people in your life, your clients, patients, residents and carers make the most of each day? Share your own stories here and help everyone increase awareness this month.


Let’s all have a great 2018!


Dementia Network Open House

CAOT is hosting open house meetings for members and associates to learn about about some of the Networks and perhaps encourage involvement of new members. Our network, Occupational Therapists working in Dementia Care, will have it’s open house on December 13th, at noon ET. Find out more by going to the CAOT Network home page at the following link:Occupational Therapy Networks

DementiaHack 2017

This year Hackernest once again hosted DementiaHack in Toronto.  This was my third time to be involved as a mentor and a judge.

sylvia at dementiahack 2017

What an amazing event! If you are not familiar with the concept, a hackathon is an event where people get together, with their computers, to do some creative problem solving. In a DementiaHack, the problem is dementia and these amazing people are coming together to learn about it, to get an idea of what types of problems are created for people with dementia and those who care for them, and use technology to develop creative solutions. DementiaHack happens over a weekend and most of the kids (and yes, a lot of them really are kids!) are just going non-stop, finding mentors, asking questions, developing apps and building solutions. Some of them get NO SLEEP as the goal is to learn about the problem and come up with the solution in 30 hours!! Check out the link here to find out what this year’s event was like! DementiaHack

What about you? Have you had an experience like this before? If there is a hackathon coming to a neighbourhood near you, be sure to check it out. Trust me, you will be energized and inspired, even with very little sleep!!!

There is still time to have your say!

The Canadian Dementia Priority Setting Partnership wants to know where you think we need research related to living with dementia as well as dementia prevention, diagnosis and treatment. The research priorities identified from this study will be shared with researchers and research funding organisations so that they can incorporate them into their research agendas.

The study follows the methods of the James Lind Alliance (UK) and is being funded by the Alzheimer Society of Canada. It is being led by Dr. Katherine McGilton (Senior Scientist, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute – University Health Network) and overseen by a Steering Group that includes people affected by dementia, either personally or professionally.

This is an opportunity for you to have your say in setting Canadian dementia research priorities.

Please complete this short questionnaire at: www.alzheimer.ca/researchpriorities

Thank you for your assistance.


Le Partenariat pour l’établissement des priorités sur les maladies cognitives aimerait connaître votre opinion. Selon vous, la recherche devrait mettre l’accent sur quels aspects en particulier de la prévention, du diagnostic et du traitement de ce type de maladies, et de la vie quotidienne des personnes atteintes? Les priorités de recherche identifiées dans le cadre de cette étude seront transmises aux chercheurs et aux organismes de financement pour qu’ils les incorporent à leur programme de recherche.

Cette étude suit les méthodes de la James Lind Alliance (UK) et elle est financée par la Société Azheimer du Canada. Elle est dirigée par la Dre Katherine McGilton (chercheuse principale, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute – University Health Network) et elle est supervisée par un groupe de direction composé de personnes touchées par une maladie cognitive, à titre personnel ou professionnel.

Profitez de cette occasion pour faire connaître votre opinion relativement aux priorités de recherche sur les maladies cognitives au Canada.

Vous pouvez remplir ce petit questionnaire à : http://www.alzheimer.ca/fr

Nous vous remercions de votre collaboration.


An Indomitable Spirit – Spirit Unforgettable

I was fortunate to attend the final day of the Toronto Hot Docs 2016 Film Festival on Sunday. I got up early,  and headed to a local cinema in order to be first in line for rush tickets. Why would I do that on a Sunday? Because the film they were screening was ‘Spirit Unforgettable’.

If you enjoy documentary films, or you are a fan of the band Spirit of the West, or if you truly believe that more needs to be done to get the message about dementia out so that we can battle the stigma that so many associate with the diagnosis, then this was an event not to be missed. It is a brief look at the life of John Mann, lead singer for the band Spirit of the West. John was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease in September 2014.

The film tracks some of the events that occurred around the time of the diagnosis, flashing back to key milestones in the band’s history and leading up to what was probably their farewell concert at Massey Hall last year. It is an amazing look at how John’s courage is getting him through each day, with the tremendous support of his wife Jill, his kids and his family of band members.

John has become a friend of the Alzheimer Society of Toronto and is supporting their work and continuing to use music as a way to communicate. The film is certain to make you laugh and to make you cry, but it will also make you proud for John and his truly remarkable spirit. There are still opportunities to see John perform as part of the Alzheimer Society of Toronto’s Music Project. Here is a link if you might be interested:

The Spirit of John

Therapeutic Listening – looking to connect

A colleague from our Dementia Network has sent out the following request:

Looking for anybody who has experience using a Therapeutic Listening program with people with dementia.  I came across some interesting information on these programs and their benefits when addressing various cognitive issues.  Most of the work seems to be with children with learning disabilities, autism and other sensory processing problems.  However, people with dementia is a population they cite as potentially benefiting.

I have been able to contact with a local OT (St. John’s, NL) who has lots of experience using Therapeutic Listening with children.  So, she can help me with the methods.  But I would really like to connect with someone who has tried this approach with people with dementia.

Christina Sullivan

If you are interested, please contact: christina.sullivan@easternhealth.ca


Welcome to a New Year!

I am always amazed when a year ends and another suddenly arrives! They say (whoever ‘they’ are), that time flying by is a sign of getting older – so I have aged a LOT lately!

I love the end of the year; it’s a chance to reflect on everything that has happened over the past 12 months and a terrific opportunity to consider what’s to come. Certainly, most of us experienced a great deal of change in 2015 and if you are anything like me, you probably found these changes to be challenging.


However, as an occupational therapist, I am reminded that I need to find a balance.

I may complain, and think about how things “used to be”, but at the same time, change can be good. Often, it can energize us and force us to consider doing things differently.

I am reminded of a quote. No idea where I heard it, but I think it is appropriate for all of us in these challenging times:

“Most people HATE the idea of trying new things unless there’s a guaranteed payoff. People who operate under that mindset will NEVER live up to their full potential.”

So I say, bring on 2016 and everything that comes with it! Who knows what heights we might reach!


Developing a Dementia Strategy. Is this news?

There was a recent letter in The Toronto Star, advocating, once again, for a national dementia strategy.

Readers’ letters to The Star

For those of us working in the field, this is probably not news. However, of interest, I was recently invited to attend one of several round table discussions that Ontario’s Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, MPP for Halton, Indira Naidoo-Harris is holding across the Province. Ontario is looking at developing its own dementia strategy and a wide range of stakeholders; providers, persons with dementia and their caregivers are being invited to sit down and share their stories. It seems that Ontario is committed to this strategy and everyone should be encouraged to get involved. Your local chapter of the Alzheimer Society can help, if you, or someone you know, wants to be part of the process.

Ontario Dementia Strategy

In fact, the anticipated cost of dementia in Canada continues to be a staggering figure that demands local, provincial and national attention.

How do you plan to get involved? Leave a comment! Let’s start a conversation right now!

Caregiver Support in Dementia Care

Recently, the topic of caregiving has been grabbing some media attention. As the Alzheimer Society of Canada’s Rising Tide report concluded back in 2010 ( Rising Tide Report ) caregivers assume a great deal of the responsibility for dementia care and they need training as well as support.

A publication produced by Baycrest Health Sciences geared towards caregivers of persons with dementia has just been released. Dementia: A Caregiver’s Guide. Information and strategies for family and friends, is the third edition of this Canadian manual. Based on scientific literature, advice from professionals and feedback from clients and caregivers, this educational guide is designed to provide information and give practical tips and strategies to help those who care for someone with dementia.

Toronto Star columnist and seniors’ advocate Carol Goar, wrote a piece on Wednesday, Oct. 28th, in the Star’s Opinion/Commentary section. As well, Sylvia Davidson was interviewed by AM740 Radio host Dale Goldhawk on Thursday, Oct. 22nd.

Check out the links to these 2 media events: The Star: Carol Goar and Radio 740: Dale Goldhawk

Dementia in the News

You have probably heard the very interesting news last week, from The Lancet – Neurology. Researchers examining findings from a number of large studies looking at the occurrence of dementia, are suggesting that the normally gloomy predictions may not be entirely accurate, with a lower prevalence of dementia in 65 year olds than originally predicted, at least in some European countries. Here is a link to the update from the CBC news:

Dementia stabilized in Europe, studies suggest

The discussions about how much faith to put in this announcement have only begun, with most experts suggesting that there must be further study. However, without a doubt, for those of us who have consistently tried to promote increased education and improved awareness, this is positive news. I know that all of you struggle with the challenges this illness presents to older adults, working against the stigma that many associate with dementia. With this news, we may begin to see greater focus on health promotion efforts targeting brain health. This would be a welcome addition to the continued emphasis on pharmaceuticals. Kudos to everyone who has been calling attention to this! Your efforts are not in vain.

And as I reflect on the ongoing work that so many do in the field of dementia care, I am also reflecting, at the moment, on our summer months drawing to a close. While we try and make the most of the remaining days in August, many are gearing up for the fall. September marks many things; back to school, fall fairs, High Holidays. But September is also World Alzheimer’s Month; an opportunity to promote awareness of dementia, with a focus on Alzheimer’s Disease, around the world. September 21st is one day during the month, that is recognized as World Alzheimer’s Day, with many exciting events happening. I am very proud to be a part of this year’s recognition of World Alzheimer’s Day at Mount Sinai Hospital, in Toronto. Sponsored by The Cyril & Dorothy, Joel & Jill Reitman Centre for Alzheimer’s Support and Training, this will be an education event for carers and health professionals. Here are the details: Alzheimer Flyer – FINAL

What might you be doing on September 21st, to mark this important day? Let us know! We want to hear from you; every voice matters, every voice counts!