Canada's National Dementia Strategy

Last month, Bill C-233, an Act respecting a national strategy for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, sponsored by the Honourable Rob Nicholson and Rob Oliphant, was passed. Canada will be the 30th country out of 194 members of the World Health Organization to implement a national dementia plan. The Alzheimer Society of Canada is celebrating this win: CEO Pauline Tardiff explains, “a national strategy enables a coordinated approach to tackling dementia in Canada that will impact the lives of those affected in tangible ways.” Seven of the provinces already have strategies in place; all are unique but united by the purpose to make dementia care a priority. According to the Alzheimer Society website, common elements of strategies include “raising awareness, coordination of care, research funding, enhanced training for healthcare professionals, and sharing of best practices.” Hopefully once this plan is underway, Canadians with dementia and their care partners will receive more consistent care and support, programs and services will be more accessible and better suited to the individuals they are designed to help, and research in the dementia field will be better coordinated – the overall goal being a better quality of life for people affected by dementia.  

Mary Beth Wighton, Chair of the Ontario Dementia Advisory Group (ODAG), which has been advocating for a national dementia strategy for years, states, “[this plan] presents a significant opportunity to address the human rights of people with dementia. There is an international movement to recognize dementia as a disability and afford people with dementia certain rights under the United Nations' Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This framework must underpin Canada's dementia strategy.” Wighton is living with frontotemporal dementia, and has long been advocating for the involvement of people with dementia in the policies, programs, and supports that are ultimately for them. “The government's commitment is a critical step, but now the real work begins. We look forward to the inclusion of people with dementia in the creation and implementation of Canada's national dementia strategy,” she says. Since 2014, ODAG has comprised of people with dementia advocating for their rights in terms of policy and practice; they provide a voice for Ontarians living with dementia and they make sure that voice is heard.

The Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health is now obligated to hold a conference within 180 days of the bill’s passing on June 22, 2017. The conference will be a space for health officials, researchers, care partners, people with dementia, healthcare providers, and advocacy organizations across all provinces to voice their ideas. Next steps include appointing up to 15 people to an advisory board to lead Philpott in her decision-making. In two years, Philpott will report the strategy’s progress to Parliament.

For additional information, you can check out Bill C-233, the Alzheimer Society’s proposal for the dementia strategy, our summary in the Dementia Weekly News, and a person with dementia’s take on the strategy.

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