Dementia continues to be a growing challenge for countries around the world, including Canada. Nearly 452,000 Canadians who are 65 and older are living with diagnosed dementia and almost two-thirds of them are women. Canada’s population is both growing and aging and, as it does, it is expected that the number of Canadians living with dementia will increase.
To respond to the challenges posed by dementia, Canada is continuing to advance its national dementia strategy released in 2019, A Dementia Strategy for Canada: Together We Aspire. The national dementia strategy aims to create a Canada where people living with dementia and caregivers feel valued and supported, and have an optimal quality of life. It also encourages efforts towards dementia being better understood, effectively treated and ultimately prevented. The strategy sets out three national objectives: prevent dementia; advance therapies and find a cure; and improve the quality of life of people living with dementia and caregivers. To support health equity, the national dementia strategy places an emphasis on populations identified as being likely to be at higher risk of developing dementia or to face barriers to care.
Canada has made significant progress in the almost three years since the national strategy was released. At the federal level, the Government of Canada has invested over $100 million over five years to support key elements of the strategy’s implementation, including awareness raising, enhanced surveillance, addressing guidance, funding community-based projects, and investing in research. These investments help to advance progress towards the strategy’s three national objectives. As part of this investment, the Government of Canada recently announced 15 new projects across the country. These projects will contribute to raising awareness with a focus on preventing dementia, reducing stigma and enabling dementia-inclusive communities. Many of these and the numerous other projects being funded across Canada are aimed at improving the quality of life of people living with dementia and caregivers.
Research has shown that 46% of Canadians do not feel fully comfortable interacting with a person living with dementia. As part of its efforts to address dementia-related stigma and help Canadians improve their understanding of dementia, the Government of Canada launched a national dementia awareness campaign in January 2022. This public education campaign aims to educate Canadians and reduce negative perceptions and assumptions related to dementia, which can create barriers for people living with dementia such as seeking health care services and participating in social activities. To make our communities more welcoming and supportive, this public education campaign is tackling dementia-related stigma by sharing messages about how we can all be supportive of people living with dementia in our communities.
Canada continues to address dementia-related challenges through research and the Government of Canada has invested over $212 million in dementia-related research over the past five years through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. This funding covers biomedical, clinical, health services, and population health aspects of dementia.
Canada has continued to advance work to support the objectives of the national dementia strategy while simultaneously supporting the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of tabling the third annual report to Parliament on Canada’s dementia strategy, which reflects on the impact of COVID-19 on people living with dementia and caregivers. The annual reports on the strategy share concrete examples of the work underway in various sectors across the country by many organizations and dedicated individuals. Progress towards the strategy’s objectives is an ongoing collaborative effort across all levels of government in Canada, the non-profit sector, academia, health care organizations, researchers, and many others.
While Canada has made progress since the release of our first national strategy, there is still much that can be done to improve the quality of life of people living with dementia and caregivers, as well as to reduce the risk of developing dementia. No single sector or country can tackle the many challenges of dementia on its own. As Canada’s Minister of Health, I look forward to continued collaboration with key partners and stakeholders, including the international dementia community as we all contribute to improving the lives of our citizens who live with dementia and caregivers.
Jean-Yves Duclos MP
Minister of Health, Government of Canada