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Dementia: Good news!

What you need to know about the national dementia strategy

Canadians will remember June 22 as a milestone in the fight to combat dementia.

On Thursday, just before they recessed for the summers, MPs passed Bill C-233, a national strategy for Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.

Canada is the 30th country to develop a national strategy to address the overwhelming scale, impact and cost of dementia.

"For the more than half a million Canadians living with dementia and their families, this is an important milestone," says Pauline Tardif, CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Canada.

"A national strategy enables a coordinated approach to tackling dementia in Canada that will impact the lives of those affected in tangible ways."

As our population ages, the number of people with dementia will climb rapidly. This has the potential to overwhelm the health care system which is already ill equipped to respond to the challenges of dementia. Research is necessary, but we must ask ourselves this question:

  • What if we have no cure for Alzheimer’s disease in the next 10-15 years? What happens then?

Dementia needs to be recognized as a provincial and federal health care priority now.

We need a more ambitious public approach to dementia, and municipalities, regional districts, community organizations and the business communities need to work together to provide a range of solutions to deliver improved quality of life for people with dementia, and their caregivers.

Without a medical breakthrough, dementia will become the most significant social and economic challenge of the 21st century.

For over a decade, numerous groups including the Alzheimer Society of Canada, the Canadian Medical Association, dementia care advocates, people with dementia, caregivers and families across Canada have been calling on the federal government to create and implement a National Dementia Strategy in response to the dementia crisis.

To help you understand what the federal government’s response has been to the dementia crisis so far, here is a quick synopsis:

  • In 2014, the federal government launched the National Dementia Research and Prevention Plan and invested $183 million in dementia research over a 5-year period (2014-2019)
  • In November 2016, the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science andTechnology submitted a detailed report to the federal government on the issue of dementia in Canadian society. The report, “Dementia in Canada:  A National Strategy for Dementia-friendly Communities,” called for province wide priorities for improving dementia care throughout the healthcare system, and made 29 recommendations aimed to achieve quality care and support for people with dementia from prevention to end of life care. The report received overwhelming support
  • On Jan.30, 2017, the Senate Committee hosted a panel discussion on Parliament Hill to petition the federal government to create AND implement a National Dementia Strategy now.

Then, the  announcement Thursday, which couldn’t have been more timely with the release of the World Alzheimer Report 2016, estimating that by 2020, the number of people with dementia in Canada would increase to 620,000 (compared to 556,000 in 2015) and by 2030, that number is expected to rise to 886,000.

What does a national strategy mean for people with dementia?

It enables a coordinated approach to tackling dementia in Canada that will impact the lives of those affected in tangible ways (Pauline Tardif, CEO of Alzheimer Society of Canada, 2017). It will also begin to address the overwhelming scale, impact and cost of dementia.

To develop and implement this strategy, the federal government will need to work jointly with the provinces and territories, as well as health stakeholders, other organizations, and the Alzheimer Society of Canada. 

Most importantly, to be a true dementia strategy, the Government should establish a consultation process with people living with dementia, the caregivers and families.

The benefits of a National Dementia Strategy include:

  • Inclusion of people with dementia in developing/implementing strategy
  • Investment in dementia research: early detection and prevention
  • Expansion and improvement in quality of care and quality of life for people with dementia, across the continuum of care, including primary care, community care and palliative care
  • Improve the care, education and supports provided to caregivers and families
  • Expansion of standardized dementia care education and development of dementia care skills for all health care professionals
  • Development of resources to address stigma and public awareness 

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About the Author

Tracey Maxfield, RN, BSN, GNC(c), DDS, is a dementia educator, consultant and advocate with over 35 years working with dementia populations in the U.K. and Canada.

She has worked in a variety of heath-care settings: acute care, palliative care, community care, residential care, physicians offices and community health centres.

Tracey has appeared on the U.S. radio shows Caregivers With Hope and Alzheimer’s Speaks, and has a dementia column in an on-line medical and holistic magazine, The Scrutinizer. 

She is a the Purple Angel Dementia Ambassador for the Central Okanagan, and sits on the board of directors for Seniors Outreach Society, and is a committee member of the Better At Home program.

She can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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