Canadian dementia strategy needed – soon

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A bill supporting a national dementia strategy for Canada – Bill C-356 – was narrowly defeated in the House of Commons in May but the issue is far from over.

A recent survey conducted by Nanos indicates that 83 per cent of baby boomers want a Canadian dementia strategy. This demographic also represents the next generation of long-term care residents.

According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, there are 747,000 Canadians living with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia. Canadians are living longer and age is directly tied into increased dementia rates. By 2031, the number of Canadians living with dementia is expected to double.

This figure represents two factors at play: more Canadians at risk of developing dementia and an increased financial burden to our health-care system, including long-term care.

This isn’t the first time an OMNIway editorial has addressed this matter. In the August 2014 edition, we stated that steps were being taken to create a Canadian dementia strategy, following the federal government’s commitment to renew health research to address the growing onset of dementia and related diseases during its October 2013 Throne Speech.

The Alzheimer Society is also pushing for a national dementia strategy. The organization says a national strategy should be “a comprehensive, workable approach that dramatically improves the lives of people living with dementia.” To achieve this, a national dementia strategy also needs input, not just from high-level health-care professionals and government officials but also from people living with dementia and their families.

Input also needs to come from a wide range of professional health-care sources – communities, long-term care and acute care – in order to make a strategy viable.

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.

Policymakers also need to look at what strategies already exist – in Canada and internationally – to discover the strengths and build upon them.

Canada has a newly elected government. With this new government comes renewed hope for Ottawa to rethink the future of Canadian seniors.

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