Editorial: Canada’s new dementia strategy creates opportunity for LTC sector

With the passing of Bill C-233 in June, Canada became the 30th country to launch a national dementia strategy. This, of course, is welcomed news for people living with dementia and their families as well as for the long-term care sector.

An estimated 70 per cent of people living in Canadian long-term care homes have some form of dementia. Adding to this, there are more Canadians today who are 65 and older than there are people 14 and younger.

Age is the No. 1 risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, which affects an estimated 564,000 Canadians. Experts say Canada can expect to see that number nearly double to 1.4 million by 2031.

Given the expertise long-term care homes have working with people living with cognitive impairment and their families, the long-term care sector can play an important role in developing the strategy.

So, what will Canada’s dementia strategy look like?

According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, the common elements of dementia strategies from other countries include awareness raising, care co-ordination, research funding, training for health-care professionals and the sharing of best practices.

Clearly, there are areas where we, as part of the long-term care sector, can help make Canada’s dementia strategy successful.

Aside from having experience in many of these areas, OMNI Health Care and the long-term care sector at large have a wealth of expertise to offer to help create a viable Canadian dementia strategy.

Providers are positioned to help with community care services, for example, by advising on best practices related to dementia care, should the opportunity arise. In recent years, OMNI and other long-term care providers have significantly reduced aggressive behaviours and improved quality of life for residents living with dementia, thanks to knowledge learned through the Behavioural Supports Ontario program.

There is a lot of expertise that can be tapped.

The Canadian government has also pledged to engage people living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia to discover what they would like to see addressed in the strategy, which is certainly encouraging.

With a growing number of Canadians expected to develop dementia in coming years, it will be challenging for the long-term care sector to accommodate everyone affected by the neurodegenerative disease.

We have a vested interest in helping to create change.