The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Government offers words but no action on Senate dementia report
May 12, 2017
Ottawa – Despite the looming prospect of 1.4 million Canadians living with some form of dementia by 2031, there was no funding in the latest budget for a national dementia strategy as recommended by the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology in its recent report.
The government’s eight-page response to the committee’s report extensively details money already spent on various initiatives but it says little about what action the government plans to take to blunt the impact of what is already a multi-billion dollar problem.
The committee’s November 2016 report, Dementia in Canada: A National Strategy for Dementia-Friendly Communities, noted that the direct cost of caring for dementia patients is expected to increase to $16.6 billion in 2031; in line with the increasing number of Canadians living with some form of dementia.
The report’s top recommendation was that the government immediately establish a Canadian Partnership to Address Dementia with a mandate to create and implement a national dementia strategy. The government did indicate its support for a private member’s bill, C-233, that would establish a national dementia strategy. However, what is now needed is the framework for putting that strategy into effect; the Senate report’s 29 recommendations provide the directions to accomplish that essential objective.
Given the demonstrable urgency of the situation, senators believed the government would want to act swiftly and decisively. The response suggests the government is not prepared to take what experts and people living with dementia have told senators are necessary steps.
Recently-released 2016 census data shows that seniors now outnumber young people in Canada. The dementia problem is only just beginning. The committee urges the government to act before the problem becomes a crisis.
- The committee’s report made 29 recommendations aimed at helping the growing number of Canadians who have or will develop some form of dementia, and those who will care for them.
- Increasing research funding to 1% of the cost of dementia care would likely allow researchers to find a disease-modifying treatment in less than 10 years. Meeting this international standard would require the government to more than double the current funding level of $41 million.
- By 2040, the total direct and indirect costs associated with dementia are projected to rise to $293 billion, up from $33 billion in 2015.
“Where our report examined what is needed to forestall a future crisis, the government response points largely to initiatives that are already underway and that, in our view, are insufficient to deal with the gravity of the situation. A dementia partnership, a national strategy and more research funding must be put in place now.”
- Senator Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie, Chair of the committee
“Our committee’s 2006 report on mental health led directly to the creation of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, which has been hugely influential. Similarly, our proposed Canadian Partnership to Address Dementia has the potential to positively affect the lives of millions of Canadians — but this can happen only with the government’s full support.”
- Senator Art Eggleton, Deputy Chair of the committee
- Read the report, Dementia in Canada: A National Strategy for Dementia-Friendly Communities.
- Follow the committee on social media using the hashtag #SOCI.
- Sign up for the Senate’s eNewsletter.
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Senate of Canada