Dementia Could Be Next National Health Crisis

I'd give anything to see inside his mind, to know just for a day, what's going on in there" -- Donna Macdiarmid, whose husband Roger suffers from dementia.

Currently, a half-million Canadians have a form of incurable dementia including Alzheimer's disease and there are approximately 100,000 more cases every year. This rate is expected to grow the number of dementia cases in Canada to 1.1 million by 2038. The direct costs of caring for dementia would be expected to grow from $8-billion a year today to $92-billion in 2038. Add in the lost productivity from higher rates of dementia and Canada could have a significant domestic health issue on its hands.

One-hundred and ten years of research have produced few practical results for prevention or treatment. Some argue that demention is merely a part of aging and treat it as less a disease and more an inevitability. Countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia and Norway have publicly opposed this passive approach whereas at the Canadian federal level there is no official strategy and provincial strategies are varied at best. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the government's medical research funding body, has a $5 million annual budget for an international project on dementia. In comparison, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty recently announced $225 million for Grand Challenges Canada, a five-year health project designed to provide creative solutions for developing countries. Although Grand Challenges Canada should be lauded for its aspirations one can't help but question whether the money could have been allocated to rescuing the thousands of Canadians who are holding onto their body, minds and lives under the grasp of dementia.

"Kick at the Darkness." Editorial. The Globe and Mail [Toronto] 18 Sept. 2010: A26. Print.

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