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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

“Let’s break the silence because we can”

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s awareness walk held Saturday in Fort St. James

New community library aims to foster positive community feelings

Vanderhoof resident has set up a little library in front of her property at the end of Lebler Road.

Vanderhoof politician running for president of UBCM

Brian Frenkel, municipal councillor, was the first Vice-President for the Union of BC Municipalities in 2019.

“Nature defines my art”: Bethany Giesbrecht, painter

This story is part of a weekly series showcasing artists in the region

Vanderhoofian nominated for the Premier’s Awards

Phil Turgeon has been nominated by the Ministry of Children and Family Development under the Leadership category.

STANDING TALL: For some, B.C.’s forest industry is the best office in the world

A look at the forest sector in B.C. – and those hoping for the best – amid mill curtailments

Royal B.C. Museum wants B.C.’s COVID-19 nature observations

COVID-19 Collecting For Our Time: ongoing project cataloguing province’s pandemic experience

Feds offer ‘life preserver’ funds to BC Ferries as pandemic sinks revenue

For every dollar the province spends the federal government will match

Bad behaviour at B.C. restaurants ignites campaign calling for respect

“If you can’t follow the rules, then stay home,” says BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association

Over half of Americans oppose Trump tariff on Canadian aluminum: survey

The survey was conducted Aug. 7 to 9 among 1,513 Canadians and 1,003 Americans

Oh baby, what a birthday gift: $2.8M raised to help B.C. boy with rare disease

‘We are very thankful to everybody,’ Aryan Deol’s father says

‘Huckleberry’ the bear killed after B.C. residents admit to leaving garbage out for videos

North Shore Black Bear Society said it was local residents who created a ‘death sentence’ for bear

Police investigating after insults, expletives yelled at federal minister’s staff

A 90-second video circulating on social media appears to have been shot by the person who was yelling

5 B.C. First Nations call out Canada for ‘discriminatory’ food fish practices

West Coast nations say government ignoring court-won right to chinook and coho

Most Read