Alzheimer’s cases set to escalate

By: Sheryl Ubelacker
The Toronto Star, The Canadian Press January 4, 2010

Canada needs a national strategy to prepare for a tidal wave of dementia cases in the coming decades that could swamp the health-care system and put a severe drain on the economy, a new report says.

The report by the Alzheimer Society, entitled Rising Tide: The Impact of Dementia on Canadian Society, suggests that cases of the mind-robbing disease will more than double to 1.25 million within 30 years as baby boomers age.

“The impact of the growth of the population of people with dementia is going to have huge economic consequences,” said society spokesman David Harvey, noting projections suggest direct and indirect costs of the disease will multiply ten-fold.

“Today, someone in Canada develops dementia every five minutes; in 30 years, there will be one new case every two minutes,” Harvey said. “If nothing changes, this sharp increase in the number of people living with dementia will mean that by 2038, the total costs associated with dementia will reach $153 billion a year.”

The document suggests a number of possible steps to help reduce the impact of dementia, including:

Prevention programs based on healthy diet and physical activity that can delay the onset of dementia by two years, with a potential cost saving of $219 billion over the 30-year period.

Enhanced skill-building and support programs for family caregivers, many of whom suffer financial hardship because they must leave jobs to look after a relative with dementia.

Assigning a case manager to each newly diagnosed dementia patient and their caregivers, which could help the person remain at home longer and lessen the strain on the long-term-care system.

Harvey said increased funding is critical for research into the causes of dementia and more effective treatments.

The society wants to see annual funding tripled to $72 million from today’s $24 million.

Carrie McAiney, a dementia expert at McMaster University, said the federal government needs to implement a national framework for dealing with dementia, as many other countries have done

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