Government applauded for dementia strategy

Those committed to enhancing quality of life for people with dementia offer their insight

In January, The OMNIway featured a story that discussed the need for a national dementia strategy in Canada. Nine months later, plans are in the works to develop such a strategy. Those who are committed to enhancing quality of life for people with cognitive impairment are roundly applauding the move.

Two weeks ago, Canada’s Health Minister Rona Ambrose announced a Canadawide dementia strategy would be created to address the condition’s impact on Canadians. It’s a decision applauded by those working at OMNI Health Care homes who work daily with people who have dementia.

Canada is the only G7 country without a formalized dementia strategy, although some provinces have created their own plans for addressing the condition. For example, Ontario has created the Behavioural Supports Ontario (BSO) initiative, which aims to help enhance quality of life for seniors affected by dementia and other conditions that cause agitation.

BSO is largely focused on enhancing long-term care staff’s knowledge of best practices in working with people who are living with dementia. The initiative has proven effective at Streamway Villa, where a significant decrease in resident agitation has been reported.

Streamway Villa administrator Kylie Szczebonski says for a national strategy to work, the successes seen in programs developed at the provincial level will need to be brought together.

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

Aside from incorporating best practices from different provinces, the strategy should also engage people at the grassroots level, says Burnbrae Gardens director of care (DOC) Lesley Dale.

This means involving family members in the process to gather information about their experiences and to hear their ideas, Dale says.

“I would hope that it starts right with the grassroots; with the families themselves with education and on up with the rest of the health-care system and other sectors of society, because (dementia) impacts everybody,” Dale says. “Then, we would have a better quality of life for those with dementia and also for those that . . . come through our doors.”

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.

In a statement, Alzheimer Society of Canada CEO Mimi Lowi-Young underscores the importance of tapping resources from all stakeholders involved in providing a better quality of life for people living with dementia.

“Our combined expertise and resources will help fuel breakthroughs that prevent this disease’s onset, yield more effective care and treatment and eventually lead us to a cure,” she says.

There’s also the immense financial burden dementia has on us all. According to the society, $33 billion is spent annually on medical and indirect costs associated with the condition. By 2040, it will be $293 billion per year.

Click here for more information about the dementia strategy.

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