CMA calls on federal government to create strategy against dementia dilemma

OTTAWA, Dec. 10, 2013 /CNW/ - Canada needs a national seniors care strategy to respond to issues such as the fast-growing dementia dilemma, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) said today.

Dr. Chris Simpson, CMA President-elect, said Canada must move now to invest in a national seniors care strategy and join the 13 countries that already have dementia strategies in place. He added such a strategy is critical to helping our overtaxed health care system cope with about three quarters of a million Canadians already living with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

He made the comment on the eve of the Dec. 11 G8 Dementia Summit in London.

Dementia currently costs the Canadian economy $33 billion a year in direct health-care costs or indirect costs of lost income of family members acting as caregivers. The Alzheimer's Society of Canada predicts that by 2031, 1.4 million Canadians will have dementia, and by 2040 the annual cost to the economy will reach $293 billion.

"We have the dubious distinction of being the only G8 country without a national dementia strategy. Meanwhile, our acute care hospitals are overflowing with patients awaiting long term care placement and our long-term care facilities are understaffed, underspaced and underequipped to care for our most vulnerable seniors. This leaves patients and their families in limbo, struggling to fill these gaps in our system," Dr. Simpson said.

"It's an urgent situation worldwide. That's why there is a G8 Summit in London this week."

British Prime Minister David Cameron is using Britain's 2013 presidency of the G8 to lead coordinated global action against what his government believes is  becoming one of the greatest pressures on families, caregivers and health systems around the world.

Britain, with a population of 64 million, has roughly the same number of people suffering from dementia as Canada does even though its population is just 35 million.

"While Canada is not unique in facing what the World Health Organization calls a dementia epidemic, we need to be prepared," Dr. Simpson said.

"That is why the CMA recommends we invest in a dementia strategy,  as part of a national seniors care strategy, to expand research, increase support for informal caregivers and ensure access to the continuum of care."

Summit organizers say there is a new diagnosis of dementia every four seconds around the world, and by 2020 there will be 70 million people on the planet living with the condition.

In its pre-budget submission (click here for link) last month, the CMA urged the federal government to invest $25 million over five years toward a dementia strategy for Canada. Some $10 million would go for research into the disease, while another $10 million would be for increased support for informal caregivers. The remaining $5 million would be for knowledge transfer, dissemination of best practices, as well as education and training.

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is the national voice of Canadian physicians. Founded in 1867, the CMA is a voluntary professional organization representing more than 80,000 of Canada's physicians and comprising 12 provincial and territorial medical associations and 51 national medical organizations. CMA's mission is to serve and unite the physicians of Canada and be the national advocate, in partnership with the people of Canada, for the highest standards of health and health care.

SOURCE: Canadian Medical Association

For further information:

Lucie Boileau
Senior Advisor, Communications and Public Outreach
Tel: 613-731-8610 ext. 1266
Cell: 613-447-0866

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