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Dementia advocates keep up pressure

  • September 7, 2019

OTTAWA -- Armed with a government commitment of $50 million to implement a National Dementia Strategy, advocates are not about to let up on efforts to keep the issue on the front burner.

Dementia Advocacy Canada (DAC) is now intent on getting the strategy on the agenda of all five political parties as the federal election approaches.

“Through the DAC, five or six of us have been meeting since the end of June strategizing for the upcoming election,” said Matt Dineen, a Catholic father of three whose wife was diagnosed at age 43 with frontotemporal dementia in 2013.

Among ways to raise the issue’s profile, the DAC plans an online Federal Forum on Dementia moderated by the Globe and Mail’s health reporter and columnist Andre Picard for Sept. 19 from 7-9 p.m. EDT at www.dementiacanada.com.

The DAC has sent formal invitations to all five political parties, asking them to designate a representative to participate in the forum, Dineen said.

The team has also been working on a set of questions on dementia policy of each party asking for responses to each in 500 words or less that DAC will add to its website.

One of the questions is:  How and when will your party act to implement the National Dementia Strategy and its $50 million planning commitment?

Dineen praised the Liberal government for approving the National Dementia Strategy and putting money into implementing it in its budget last spring.  

“It’s a document, but now comes the work: what’s inside the document must be implemented.

“We’re hoping the other parties have a working knowledge of what’s inside the document,” Dineen said.  “We realize that $50 million or $10 million a year is a drop in the bucket,” he said. “We want to keep the issue in the forefront of Canadians’ minds.”

The National Dementia Strategy has three goals: “prevent dementia; advance therapies and find a cure; and improve the quality of life of people living with dementia and caregivers.”

More than 402,000 Canadians over 65 are now living with dementia and 16,000 have experienced early onset dementia, according to figures provided by the Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI).

The Canadian Academy of Health Sciences has estimated that the estimated total health care system costs for persons with dementia are projected to reach $16.6 billion by 2031.

“With the number of people living longer, we need to lay the groundwork now so we’re ready to handle the onslaught of new cases of dementia,” Dineen said.

DAC’s priorities include national requirements for personal support workers and health care aids to “ensure minimum standards for education and training,” Dineen said.  

“We want education and training for frontline workers so care partners such as myself will see that money is put to good use.”

Dineen said DAC will be urging its members to use its online Advocacy Calendar to encourage “small steps they can take to get involved in the lead-up to the election.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada reports 78,600 new cases of dementia diagnosed per year among Canadians over 65 or nine per hour; and 63 per cent of those over 65 living with dementia are women.

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