I read with great interest The Spectator's Jan. 4 editorial, under the headline "Preparing for the battle against dementia." The Hamilton Spectator is to be commended for its consistent and timely coverage as concerns the issue of dementia.
The Spectator is indeed correct in its analysis that it is "frightening, unacceptable and unconscionable" that we have no national dementia strategy here in our country. What we have instead, I would argue, is an elected official (Health Minister Rona Ambrose) who signed her name on behalf of all Canadians to the G8 Dementia Summit Declaration on Dec. 11. As a signatory to the declaration, Ambrose attests to the fact that, among the 12 global commitments, our Canadian government pledges to help identify a cure or a disease-modifying therapy for dementia by the year 2025.
As a Canadian, I find it truly unfortunate that our G8 delegation sat at the table of global leaders without having a concerted and comprehensive national plan for dementia in hand. This is indeed troublesome in a country where statistics indicate there are upwards of 750,000 Canadians living with some form of dementia. That number is expected to almost double to 1.4 million in less than 20 years.
The $33-billion bill for this disease will soar to $293 billion in the same period (more than what we currently spend on health care). Despite the Canadian government's financial commitment ($960 million since 2006) to neurological and brain disorder research, our economy simply cannot sustain such a monstrous financial burden.
I am all too well acquainted with this debilitating disease known as dementia. I am a husband whose 44-year old wife (and mother of three children) was diagnosed a year ago with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and who now resides in a secured wing of a long-term care facility.
The need for our Conservative government to devise a national strategy is crucial. This is all the more relevant given the underpinnings of Quebec's Bill 52, which calls for the legalization of euthanasia. Canadians need to be aware that the issue of euthanasia is directly related to dementia. In Belgium, the government there is debating the expansion of euthanasia to include (among other demographics) people with Alzheimer's and dementia. Most telling is knowing that the architects of Bill 52 were inspired by the Belgian euthanasia law. Thus, we must act now if we hope to defuse this dementia time bomb here in Canada.
January is Alzheimer Awareness Month in Canada. I would like to personally call upon all Canadians to contact their local MP and ask them if they will publicly support a national dementia strategy (including MP Claude Gravelle's Bill C-356).
Let us remind them too, of the commitments Minister Ambrose pledged to the world on our behalf when she signed her name to the G8 Dementia Summit Declaration.
We must consistently hold our elected officials to their promises and not let them forget their obligations. The case of combating dementia both nationally and globally can be no exception.
I am optimistic that the leadership shown by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and other world leaders at the G8 Summit will help give our Canadian government the impetus it sorely needs to sit down and begin devising a comprehensive national strategy. Hopefully, doing so will go a long way to bringing about much needed change here in our country and aid those whose lives have been forever changed by this wretched condition, especially in what is traditionally supposed to be a "joyous" and "prosperous" time of the year.
If our Canadian government is willing to take immediate action, then perhaps the year 2025 will be a most joyful and prosperous year for those who are all too familiar with dementia.
Matthew Dineen lives in Nepean Ont. And is a Dementia Champion with the Alzheimer Society of Ottawa and Renfrew County.