Focus On

How major political parties address important issue of dementia

Thursday, October 10, 2019 @ 9:30 AM | By Matthew Rendely

Matthew Rendely %>
Matthew Rendely
The federal election is only days away. As of Oct. 3, the latest Ipsos poll for Global News finds that health care is the most important issue for Canadians when they go into the ballot box.

This result is not surprising since our population is aging and dementia is having a significant impact upon Canadians. Not only are the individuals afflicted by the disease of dementia affected but their families and communities are as well.

The Alzheimer’s Society of Canada has reported that there are over 500,000 people living with dementia across Canada. By 2031, this number is projected to reach 937,000. In regard to our senior population, Public Health Agency of Canada has reported that 419,000 Canadians aged 65 years and older have been diagnosed with dementia. The dementia rates are estimated to be even higher among Indigenous people in Canada.

Despite these facts, the issues of health and health care in Canada were not selected to be addressed at the two official 2019 federal leaders’ debates set for early this month in the lead-up to the election.

On Oct. 4, Dr. Sandy Buchman, president of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), along with leadership of other medical professional associations, penned a joint letter to the Canadian Debate Production Partnership (DPP) respectfully requesting that the issues of health and health care be added as stand-alone topics to be addressed at the 2019 federal leaders’ debates.

The disheartened sentiments of the leadership of the CMA, along with those other medical professional organizations which stood in unity in its request to the DPP, was supported by the Dementia Justice Society of Canada (Dementia Justice).

Dementia Justice is a federally incorporated non-profit society dedicated to advancing the rights, needs and dignity of people with dementia in Canada who are, or are at risk of becoming, involved with the criminal justice system. Dementia Justice strives to achieve its objectives through advocacy, awareness raising, education and research.

In May 2018, Dementia Justice, along with various other stakeholders, people with dementia and public advocates for the elderly, including Kimberly Whaley of Whaley Estate Litigation, attended the National Dementia Strategy Conference in Ottawa. The conference was convened as a step in developing a national strategy to address all aspects of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia as mandated by the National Strategy for Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias Act, SC 2017, c. 19.

On June 17, 2019, the government of Canada released its first ever national dementia strategy, A Dementia Strategy for Canada: Together We Aspire (National Dementia Strategy). The Public Health Agency of Canada has reported that this “strategy focuses on preventing dementia, advancing therapies, and finding a cure, as well as improving the quality of life of people living with dementia and caregivers.” The government of Canada also proposed $50 million in funding to help advance this national strategy in the 2019 budget.

In spite of the fact of our aging population and significantly growing rate of people living with dementia across the country, the national political parties have committed very little specifics about how they intend to protect these vulnerable groups in Canada and carry out the mandate of the Act and the National Dementia Strategy.

Dementia Justice published a useful chart summarizing the platforms of the five major federal political parties with respect to their support and advancement of the National Dementia Strategy. As of the date that this article was written, only the Liberal Party, NDP and Green Party have addressed this issue. Follow Dementia Justice on Twitter to monitor any reports on these commitments in the lead-up to the election.

Matthew Rendely is a lawyer at Whaley Estate Litigation, one of Canada’s leading wills, estates and trust litigation boutiques.

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