Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Coping With Dementia

"My father is an absolutely amazing person, the wisest and smartest person I’ve ever known, and it’s affected us a lot because he’s not the same person he used to be, and it affects my amazing mother, who … lives with him and takes care of him."
"I get how, how much it changes families, how much it affects people’s lives and how much we don’t really have great systems in place, and [my parents] live in Southwestern Ontario in a place where there should be better access to care and there isn’t. So we need to do better for Canadians living with dementia."
"It’s not any one single solution that’s going to respond to a fairly significant social issue like [dementia]."
Dr. Jane Philpott, Health Minister, Government of Canada

"[I can think of no disease so] deeply dreaded by anyone who wants to age gracefully and with dignity; no disease that places such a heavy burden on families, communities and societies; and, no disease where innovation to develop a cure is so badly needed."
Margaret Chan, director general, World Health Organization
In recent years, several promising Alzheimer's Disease therapies have failed to show positive results in later trials.
In recent years, several promising Alzheimer's Disease therapies have failed to show positive results in later trials. Matt Rourke / Associated Press

The figures are startling. There are 750,000 people in Canada suffering from dementia. From among a population of just over thirty-six million people. Industrialized Western countries with their 21st Century scientific medical discoveries and treatments are allowing people to live longer, more fruitful lives where chronic illnesses and diseases are kept in check for ever lengthier periods. The one disease, however, that has so far eluded effective, long-term treatment, let alone a cure, is dementia associated with age and genetic susceptibility, in its many forms, all lethal.

By the year 2031 as the country's population numbers increase and with that increase a concomitant increase in the number of elderly in society, that number of dementia suffers is expected to double. In 2011 the medical costs associated with dementia care came to $8.3-billion, an expense that is set to rise steeply over the next 25 years. By the time 25 years has elapsed, it is projected that one in four of the Canadian population will be over 65 years of age.

At the present time, despite the universality of the problem and the many scientists that are seeking to address the problem with an answer, that answer eludes. There is no cure for dementia, and no effective drugs exist with the capability of slowing down the onset and trajectory of dementia. Women represent two thirds of those afflicted, and 70 percent of caregivers also happen to be women. A Senate report and testimony heard by the national health committee point out that the country has no comprehensive plan to deal with the future explosion of dementia onset.

A private member's bill has been tabled to establish a national strategy along with an action plan to deal with the intractable problem. That bill, put forward by a Conservative Member of Parliament, formerly a minister in the previous government, has the support of Canada's other two political parties, including the now-Liberal government. The legislation addresses a plan to "encourage" far more investment into all research areas and the development of a national objective to improve the lives of people suffering the misery of dementia.

The Senate plan itself speaks to the issue of government investing $30-million to pay for a new organization of broad national sweep, and to launch a public awareness campaign; to expand Employment Insurance and compassionate care benefits to those suffering from dementia, while doubling research funding into dementia.

If the pulse of a caring, responsible society is tuned to improving the lives of the most vulnerable, usually identified as the very young, the very old, the health and mobility disadvantaged and the working poor, then this is a significant issue long overdue to be addressed, in the need for a national strategy.

Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/GettyImages files
Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/GettyImages Alzheimer's disease progresses more rapidly in some people than in others. Many who are newly diagnosed stay in the early stage, retaining their personality and people skills, for quite a while.

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