07/15/2012 03:02 EDT | Updated 09/14/2012 05:12 EDT

Alzheimer's experts gather in Vancouver

Scientists and researchers are gathered in Vancouver to share information on dementia, which costs North Americans hundreds of billions of dollars each year in health care costs.

The Alzheimer's Association International Conference brings experts together for five days to compare findings and look at possible treatments.

Dr. Maria Carillo says Alzheimer's is a growing epidemic.

"We can replace knees, we can even do heart surgery and replace all kinds of body parts," she said. "Unfortunately, the brain ... we still haven't cracked that code and tried to figure out how to help people with neuro-degenerative diseases and diseases of the aging brain such as Alzheimer's."

Alzheimer's patient Julie Allen, who is speaking at the conference, lost her job and her home as a result of the disease.

"It was probably the worst thing that ever happened to me," she said. "I had my own business. That was gone, because it was just me. So that left me with no money."

The Alzheimer's Association International Conference runs at the Vancouver Convention Centre until July 19.