National Dementia Strategy’s Work in Progress

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More than a year after publication, Canada’s national dementia strategy is being put into practice through collaborative projects and funding spread across the nation Jorruang Jorruang

In June 2019, the Government of Canada’s A Dementia Strategy for Canada: Together We Aspire was launched. The first of its kind in Canada, this forward-looking strategy focuses on three overlying objectives: preventing dementia, advancing therapies and finding a cure and improving quality of life for people living with it. The 2019 federal budget is providing $50 million over five years to support implementation of the strategy.

Now, more than a year and a half since the strategy’s inception, we check in with the Public Health Agency of Canada, as well as Mary Beth Wighton and Jim Mann, to chart its progress. Wighton and Mann are advocates living with dementia who sit on the Ministerial Advisory Board on Dementia, which provides evidence-informed advice to the Minister of Health and contributed to the strategy.

Here are some of the key measures taken so far to implement the strategy:

1 | Prevent Dementia

Examples of current initiatives

  • With Dementia Strategic Fund support, the first round of projects dedicated to helping prevent dementia, reduce stigma and enable more dementia-inclusive communities are expected to begin in winter 2021.

  • Dementia Community Investment funds are supporting initiatives for people living with dementia and caregivers. One such project, which was announced in August 2020, is the University of Manitoba’s Living with Dementia in Rural First Nations Communities: A Health and Wellness Project. In it, the project is working with Indigenous communities in Manitoba to develop programming and increase awareness surrounding dementia.

  • In 2019, a national platform studying dementia prevention in higher-risk individuals was launched. CAN-THUMBS UP (see pg. 48 for more), explores how combining preventative lifestyle factors can reduce dementia risk.

The aspiration is a cure. We can’t aspire any higher than that. But if you can’t find a cure, let’s just continue to find those risk factors, because that will ultimately lead to less people who need to be cured.

— Mary Beth Wighton

Mary Beth Wighton by Peter McNeice.

Mary Beth Wighton by Peter McNeice.

2 | Advance therapies and find a cure

Examples of current initiatives

  • Research funded through the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging, which receives its funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, has worked to advance knowledge on prevention, treatment and care for dementia. As a result, several research projects are currently underway across the nation, including:

  • Dr. Sandra Black’s project at the Sunnybrook Research Institute in Toronto, which is investigating how repurposing blood pressure-lowering drugs could delay the onset of dementia.

  • A University of Toronto study led by Dr. Peter St. George-Hyslop, which is identifying potential molecular targets for treatments in neurodegenerative-disease-causing pathways.

I take heart that that progress is being made. It is not only looking to people with dementia 30 years down the road — it’s looking to make life better for people living with dementia today.

— Jim Mann

Jim Mann courtesy Alzheimer Society of Canada.

Jim Mann courtesy Alzheimer Society of Canada.

3 | Improve the quality of life of people living with dementia and caregivers

Examples of current initiatives

Dementia Stategic Fund initiatives include stigma reduction projects, such as one with the Native Women’s Association of Canada focused on reducing stigma in Indigenous communities.

Dementia Community Investment fund community-based projects on quality of life include the University of British Columbia’s Building Capacity for Meaningful Involvement of People with Dementia. The project explores a community development approach to support dementia-inclusive initiatives in arts, social activities, fitness and more.

Under the strategy’s “surveillance and data” pillar, projects addressing priority data gaps, including improving data on dementia caregivers, as well as dementia progression, stages and impacts, began in fall 2020. [ ]

There’s a need for a better understanding from a systemic perspective — with a better understanding of dementia within the whole health services community. You can educate other people that there is a life after a diagnosis.

— Jim Mann

To learn more about the current state of the national dementia strategy’s objectives and goals, read the 2020 Report to Parliament at