The Canadian Alzheimers Society is calling on the next Federal Government to invest in, and support, a national strategy for Dementia and Alzheimers. According to the numbers, the ‘stats’, Canada is heading to critical mass, and as a country we cannot afford to wait for some magical pill that will slow down the progression of diseases on the dementia spectrum. The sum total effect & cost of dementia and alzheimers on a family, a community, and a country is immense. The well being of those people directly affected, and potentially an entire country is at stake. Dementia is much like looking through a frosted glass curtain. The shadows and partially constructed images make for a difficult journey through fragmented memories.
In less than 20 years, 1.4 million Canadians will be diagnosed with some form of dementia. There is no getting around it, we can’t afford to ignore the issue. It has a monstrous impact on the people who are diagnosed with dementia, and the families who care for them.
Statistics found on the Canadian Institute of Health Research website, state the number of Canadians with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, is rising sharply. As of 2011, there were 747,000 Canadians living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias and that number is expected to double to 1.4 million by 2031. Those are steep numbers.
In 2011 alone, family caregivers spent 444 million unpaid hours looking after someone with dementia. That’s the equivalent of $11 billion in lost income and 227,760 full-time jobs. By 2040, they will be devoting a staggering 1.2 billion unpaid hours per year. Stories found within these numbers are families, individuals and caregivers living with mounting pressure to care for a person diagnosed with dementia and alzheimers. While stress cannot be quantified in these statistics, it’s fair to say that adult children and caregivers, as well as the individual diagnosed with dementia, would all be on an extended rollercoaster ride of emotions. Emotional well being has its’ own costs.
In a recent article on Huffington Post Canada by Mimi Lowi-Young, CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Canada, Lowi-Young stated “The need for a sustained commitment to a national dementia strategy has never been more urgent. It must become a public policy priority. Without swift action, dementia will continue to be the biggest social and economic crisis for our country, its communities and families.”
Locally, Federal Candidates and the party platforms they represent heading to Election 2015 are varied in the approach they would take to the Canadian Alzheimers Society’s call for a National Strategy/Policy on Dementia and Alzheimers.
“The health and well-being of Canadians is a top priority for the Conservative Party and for me here in Sault Ste. Marie. said Bryan Hayes, Conservative candidate.
“In regard to Alzheimer’s and Dementia Research, our Government supported health research primarily through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). This includes significant funding to support priority research areas in Alzheimer’s and related dementias in the amount of $37.8 million annually.” Hayes continued.
“Further, the Conservative Party will invest $15 million to expand patient oriented research and create the Canadian Consortium on Neuro-degeneration in aging to work towards finding a cure for Dementia by 2025.” concluded Hayes. “The Conservative Party recognizes the challenges facing individuals with disabilities and their families and the contributions that persons with disabilities can and do make to the economy. We remain committed to growing the Canada Health Transfer on a sustainable and predictable path and to providing support to Canadians of all abilities.”
Meanwhile Terry Sheehan Liberal candidate when asked about where the federal Liberal Party stands said “The Liberal Party of Canada has long-called for federal leadership to establish a pan-Canadian Dementia Strategy to address the need for a national plan for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. A Liberal government will provide leadership for real action on a pan-Canadian dementia strategy. We will repair the federal government’s relationship with the provinces and ensure federal collaboration with provincial and territorial partners to tackle critical needs such as dementia.” Sheehan added, “Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia put enormous emotional stress on families in Sault Ste. Marie, and across Canada. By investing in research and prevention, we can delay onset for as long as possible so Canadians can live their lives to the fullest”, said Sheehan.
NDP leader Tom Mulcair has committed the NDP Party platform to supporting and building on the work already accomplished in the drafting of Bill C-356, a private members bill introduced in the House of Commons, November 24th, 2011. Bill C-356, is a framework for an Act respecting a National Strategy for Dementia. Developed in large part by Nickle Belt MP Claude Gravelle, Bill C-356 was ultimately defeated at second reading on May 6th,2015 by a heartbreaking vote of 139 (for)- 140 (against).
The Bill sought to require the federal health minister to begin discussions with provinces and territories in an effort to establish a national dementia and alzheimers strategy.
The Federal NDP platform includes a 40 million dollar investment towards a national strategy. ‘An NDP government, working with provinces and territories, will invest $40 million to create a national Alzheimer’s and Dementia Strategy that will: Support screening, early diagnosis and treatment to help slow progression of the conditions; Improve resources for newly diagnosed patients and their families to access needed care, and Fund additional Alzheimer’s and dementia research, ensuring that activities are being coordinated to maximize resources and results.’
“Caring for our aging population will be a major challenge for our next government,” said Skip Morrison, Federal NDP candidate for Sault Ste. Marie. “Tom Mulcair and the NDP will take this challenge seriously by investing in home care and long term care spaces, more doctors and nurses, and by implementing our national Alzheimer’s and Dementia strategy. Our seniors deserve the best care we can provide.”
According to The Federal Liberal Party platform there will be provisions made for an enhanced health care benefit. ‘This enhanced compassionate care benefit represents an investment of $190 million per year in supporting Canada’s compassionate caregivers. We will introduce a more flexible and inclusive benefit available to any Canadian who provides care to a seriously ill family member.’
On September 29th,2015, Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada, stressed the importance of The Green Party’s National Seniors Strategy and called for a Guaranteed Liveable Income, a National Dementia Strategy, Pharmacare, and Homecare. “The Greens want a National Dementia Strategy” shared Kara Flannigan, Sault Ste. Marie Green Party of Canada candidate.
“Our plan would ensure that seniors can afford to stay in their homes, access quality healthcare, and enjoy a high quality of life.” said Elizabeth May. “Many seniors on fixed incomes are particularly vulnerable and the Green Party recognizes the unique needs of our aging population. We will work collaboratively with other parties in the next government to improve seniors’ quality of life.”
The Conservative Party of Canada’s platform includes allowances for enhanced retirement savings and tax relief for Widowed and Single Seniors. Sault Ste. Marie Conservative MP Bryan Hayes did not vote in favour of Bill C-356.
‘Canadian seniors have earned our gratitude for a lifetime of hard work in service to our families, our communities, and our country. They have helped make Canada the strong and prosperous country that it is today, and they deserve to enjoy their senior years in dignity and financial security.
In February of 2014, Canadian born actor Seth Rogen gave an emotional appeal on Capitol Hill (United States Congress) for alzheimers and dementia research. His mother-in-law was diagnosed with the disease, and through this very personal experience, Seth Rogen has become a champion for alzheimers and dementia research.
According to the WHO (World Health Organization) the number of people living with dementia worldwide is currently estimated at 47.5 million and there are 7.7 million new cases every year. The number of people living with dementia and alzheimers is expected to triple by 2050. There is also a lack of awareness and understanding of dementia in many countries, resulting in stigmatization, barriers to diagnosis and care, impacting caregivers, families and societies physically, psychologically and economically. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs362/en/
A Nanos Poll, taken in 2013, demonstrates that an overwhelming majority of Canadians would support and desire a national strategy on dementia and alzheimers. (http://www.alzheimer.ca)
Statistics Canada recently released new data which, for the first time in Canadian history, shows that seniors outnumber children aged 14 and under. A National Strategy and Policy for Dementia & Alzheimers is needed in Canada. Time is of the essence. We can’t afford to simply forget about it.
For more information on The Alzheimers Society of Canada’s call for a National Strategy on Dementia visit : http://www.alzheimer.ca
The public voting record for the private members Bill C-356 can be found here: http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications