Administrator gives thumbs-up to government promise to create dementia strategy

But Kylie Szczebonski emphasizes importance of getting input from all stakeholders on how to develop one

Kylie Szczebonski is applauding a move by Canadian Health Minister Rona Ambrose to develop a dementia strategy for Canada.

The Streamway Villa administrator says a Canadian dementia strategy “is long overdue” and the fact that the creation of one is in the works is a sign that people living with dementia are on the government’s radar.

Canada is currently the only G7 country without a formalized dementia strategy. That said, individual provinces have been stepping up to the plate to create programs to help enhance quality of life for Canadians living with dementia.

“I think (the federal government) will be surprised to see what a lot of the provinces are already doing,” Szczebonski tells The OMNIway.

She cites the Behavioural Supports Ontario (BSO) program as an example of a provincial initiative that’s producing results. The program, which aims to reduce responsive behaviours from people with dementia, has shown a lot of success in curbing agitation among residents at the Cobourg long-term care home, the administrator notes.

BSO aims to help enhance quality of life for seniors affected by dementia and other conditions that cause agitation. The funding, which is provided to long-term care homes through Ontario’s 14 Local Health Integration Networks, is largely put towards staff education.

Szczebonski is clear how a national dementia strategy should look.

“There needs to be input, not just from high-level people — I think the input needs to come from families and the residents themselves,” she says. “Input also needs to come from all sources — communities, long-term care and acute care.”

She says a Canadawide strategy, once established, should address the issues all provinces have in terms of enhancing quality of life for people with dementia. A one-size-fits-all approach is not viable because each province has a different health-care system.

Szczebonski adds that policymakers also need to look at what strategies already exist — provincially and internationally — to discover the strengths and build upon them.

It is estimated that 747,000 Canadians are living with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia. The number is expected to double to 1.4 million by 2031.

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