Sunday April 20, 2014

Canada needs dementia plan, groups say

G8 summit to focus on global challenge

There is growing pressure on the Conservative government to adopt a national dementia strategy.

Both the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and the opposition NDP said Tuesday that Canada should join 13 other countries that already have strategies to deal with the fast-growing problem of Alzheimer's and similar diseases.

Wednesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron will take the issue to a world stage at a G8 Summit in London specifically focused on the global challenge of dementia.

The Alzheimer Society of B.C. hopes that a concerted lobbying effort will convince Ottawa that it's time to move past a patchwork approach, said Barbara Lindsay, director of advocacy and public affairs.

"We don't have a cause and we don't have a cure, so given that, we need to support people and their families as long as we can," Lindsay said.

Hearing a chorus of voices from a variety of government and organizations will help to put the disease at the forefront of public health policy in Canada, she added.

"These are the game changers."

Chris Simpson, CMA's president-elect, said a plan would help Canada's over-taxed health-care system cope with as many as 750,000 patients suffering from Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.

It's estimated that dementia costs Canadian taxpayers $33 billion a year in both direct health-care costs and the lost income of family members who are forced to act as caregivers.

The NDP is also calling on the government to back proposed legislation that would establish a national plan, saying Canadians deserve better.

Matt Dineen, whose partner was recently diagnosed with dementia in her early 40s, has written to Health Minister Rona Ambrose urging a national strategy. Simpson said Canada has the "dubious distinction" of being the only G8 country without a national dementia strategy.

In a statement, Ambrose defended the government's record on tackling dementia. She said Canada is a leader in the area of research and added the government is "committed to taking further action to address the growing problem of dementia."

Lindsay noted that Premier Christy Clark has spoken of need for an action plan and the issue has also been added to the agenda for the Council of the Federation when provincial and territorial leaders meet next August.

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