Developing a Canadian dementia strategy: the time is now


Action plan needed to meet the needs of a growing number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, says Alzheimer Society CEO

With the number of Canadians living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia expected to double over the next 15 years, it is crucial Canada develop a national strategy to better understand, prevent and manage these neurodegenerative conditions, says Alzheimer Society of Canada CEO Mimi Lowi-Young, in an interview with The OMNIway.

Alzheimer Society of Canada CEO Mimi Lowi-Young

Alzheimer Society of Canada CEO Mimi Lowi-Young

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 747,000 Canadians. Experts say Canada can expect to see that number double to 1.4 million by 2031.

Canada and Germany are the only G7 countries that do not have a national dementia strategy. France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan and the United States all have national dementia strategies.

“We’re now seeing that more and more countries have national dementia strategies because they recognize that they have to take action now as people get older,” Lowi-Young says. “They (recognize that) they need to put in place now the changes and the improvements and the increased research to make a difference for people, not only now, but into the future.”

The impact of dementia is felt heavily by those living with the condition and their families. The causes of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are not fully understood and there is no cure or disease modifying therapy. Therefore, Canada needs a national dementia strategy to learn more about the disease in order to manage it better as the number of people with the disease increases, Lowi-Young says.

Lowi-Young says there needs to be a three-pronged foundation to a Canadian dementia strategy: research, prevention and ensuring those who have Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are living well with their condition.

“The first focus is on research and substantial increase on investment in research. The second is prevention – not only (developing) a better understanding of the signs and symptoms of the disease but also how people can reduce the risk of getting the disease and when they actually have the disease to help reduce the progress of the disease,” Lowi-Young says. “And lastly, living well with dementia – this is where long-term care (can play a role).”

In order to ensure the foundation of a national dementia strategy is strong, the Alzheimer Society of Canada has proposed the formation of the Canadian Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Partnership (CADDP).

The CADDP would need to be a collaboration of representatives from provincial governments; the Alzheimer Society of Canada and its provincial agencies; researchers; clinicians and people living with dementia and their families, Lowi-Young says.

The OMNIway recently spoke with Lowi-Young to discuss the need for a Canadian dementia strategy and the role the long-term care sector could play in such a strategy. Keep reading The OMNIway this week for more stories from our interview with Lowi-Young.

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