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National strategy needed to help dementia patients live independently

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– A fully-funded National Dementia Strategy is urgently needed to support caregivers, research efforts and Canadians living with dementia.

Members of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology made 29 recommendations to improve the quality of dementia care and research in Canada in an extensive report released Tuesday called Dementia in Canada: A National Strategy for Dementia-Friendly Communities.

Senators began their study in February 2016 with a mandate to examine existing services, consider the implications of an aging population on future needs and to make recommendations about what role the federal government should play to help Canadians with dementia.

Dementia is a progressive and degenerative condition causing memory loss and the impairment of brain activity. Over time, it robs its patients of the ability to live independently. In its early stages, patients are able to live on their own, but as the disease progresses, many require some form of assisted living. There is no cure and little treatment to slow its progression.

Canadians with dementia are able to live independently in their own homes, but need help coping with a disease that often makes them want to shut themselves off from the world.

A National Dementia Strategy would help to ensure adequate care and supports are available to people living with dementia and that appropriate housing options are available for patients.

It would also make available funding for research and disease management as scientists work towards new treatments.

This strategy must be properly supported. The committee recommends providing $30 million in annual federal funding to a broad partnership of governments, health organizations and people affected by dementia that would create and implement the National Dementia Strategy.

The committee also recommends including $3 billion over four years for home care in the next Health Accord, a $540-million federal infrastructure investment in long-term care facilities and doubling existing research funding to $100 million a year.

The federal government should act now to ensure appropriate supports are in place to confront this urgent and growing public health issue.

Quick Facts

    • The number of Canadians with dementia will double over the next 15 years to 1.4 million in 2031, up from 750,000 in 2011.
    • The direct cost of caring for dementia patients will rise dramatically to $16.6 billion a year in 2031, compared to $8.3 billion in 2011.
    • The total annual direct and indirect costs associated with dementia are projected to rise to $293 billion by 2040, compared to $33 billion in 2015. 

Quotes

“It is tragic that the stigma associated with a dementia diagnosis causes so many dementia patients to withdraw from society – they deserve much better. By helping Canadian communities become more dementia-friendly and enhancing access to home health care, federal and provincial governments can make a major social advance permitting patients a higher quality of life and extending the time they have in their own homes and community before requiring assisted living.”

- Senator Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie, Chair of the committee.

“The writing is on the wall. Dementia is going to become a major public health issue and a serious financial issue to governments as Canada’s aging population grows. We need to start putting measures in place now before the problem escalates further.”

- Senator Art Eggleton, P.C., Deputy Chair of the committee.