January is Alzheimer’s month. Very little is known about this disease despite it being one of the 10 leading causes of death in Canada. It is the only disease in the top ten without an effective prevention or treatment plan. Research funding lags far behind the other 10 diseases. Average life span with dementia is 8-10 years.
At the 2013 G8 Health Ministers’ conference in London, all countries vowed to find a cure for dementia by 2025. Each committed to a national strategy. Canada is the only country that has not developed a strategy. (Globe and Mail Dec 11 2013).
(Alzheimer’s Society of Canada 01/15/14) “This summit represented a new level of international collaboration and commitment when it comes to addressing the health and economic challenges of dementia,” said Health Minister Minister Rona Ambrose. “I look forward to working with our G8 partners and stakeholders like the Alzheimer Society of Canada…this will enable Canada to continue to take a leadership role and meet our shared commitment of finding a cure by 2025. It will also ensure that our discussions result in better care to help those living with dementia and their families and caregivers.”
Currently, 747,000 Canadians are living with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, with this number reaching 1.4 million by 2031. Annual costs to Canada’s economy will increase from $33 billion today, to $293 billion by 2040. (Alzheimer’s Society of Canada 10/15/14).
When asked why Canada was the only G8 country not to have a national strategy on dementia, Ms. Ambrose said. ” the federal government and provinces need to work together. It takes collaboration,” she said…”but I think now when it comes to care and intervention and that kind of program and that kind of a national plan, that conversation is just starting to happen.”
Alzheimer’s is only one of more than 100 diseases that are included in the diagnosis of dementia. Some of the more common include: Alzheimer’s, Vascular dementia, Dementia with Lewy bodies, Mixed Dementia, Parkinsons, Frontotemporal dementia, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH), Huntington’s disease, Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome.
I am a Caregiver to my 94 yo mother who has NPH. Eight years ago she began to exhibit memory loss, a halting Parkinson’s style gait and incontinence. All three are signs of NPH. An astute neurologist recognized the symptoms and inserted a shunt in her head that drains the excess fluids that cause memory loss. The results were immediate and miraculous. But often these symptoms are misdiagnosed and treated as Parkinson’s which is the first thing that happened for my mother and the medications made her catatonic. Over time, however, her memory loss symptoms and incontinence have returned and, at her age, further surgery is not a good choice. Since my fathers passing, my mother lives in our home. One of the biggest sources of her confusion comes from that relocation and she frequently wonders where all her things are and when she will go home.
I hear this often from Caregivers whose loved ones with Alzheimer’s have been placed in care facilities. They all want to go home.
That is one of the reasons I am so committed to “get it right” with the policy for the Live-In Caregiver program. Had my mother remained in her home where much of her day-to-day activity was done on automatic pilot after being in the same environment for 40 years, her memory loss would not be as problematic. At this stage, all she needs is someone to make certain she is safe, answer her questions when she gets confused, guide her with cooking and remind her to take her medication. It would be a wonderful relationship for her – and for the Caregiver. Access that is affordable and happens in a timely manner would significantly reduce the anticipated ballooning costs of 293 billion!
Her options are limited to an extended care facility for which she is too high functioning and where she would decompensate in a short time or our home where she worries she is a burden. I believe there are thousands just like my mother, in this total of 747,000 people, who could be kept out of expensive hospital and long term beds with the aid of an affordable live-in Caregiver…and better respite to relieve the overburdened caregivers.
We are burying our heads in the sand about this disease that will take our current 33 billion dollar care costs upwards to 293 billion in 23 years!!! Why can Canada not even produce a strategy 4 years after having made this commitment?
In British Columbia, we have communities, such as the Similkimeen Valley, where it is anticipated there will be 82 people over the age of 65 for every 100 people in the workforce (ages 24-64) by the year 2030!
Where will the Caregivers be found?