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Rising Tide; the economic burden of dementia

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Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are rapidly becoming one of the Canada’s biggest health challenges with a soaring number of cases that studies indicate, will have a crippling effect on Canadian families, our health care system and our economy. Currently, approximately 500,000 Canadians suffer from dementia, and dementia-related illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s, for the past decade, dementia and its impact on national economies have been the subject of an increasing focus around the globe. While governments of other countries have made dementia a national priority, according to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, the Canadian government has yet to take these steps.
“Canada requires a national plan built on our growing understanding of the disease in order to quantify, prepare for and reduce the impact of dementia on Canadian society,” stated volunteer president of the Alzheimer Society of Canada. “The predicted surge in dementia cases will certainly overwhelm Canada’s health care system unless specific targeted action is taken.”
As the national voice for people living with dementia and their caregivers, the Alzheimer Society recently commissioned RiskAnalytica, a science-based research firm with expertise in population-based health analysis, to conduct a two-year intensive project, Rising Tide; the Impact of Dementia on Canadian Society. The stark, urgent message underlined in the report released on Tuesday, September 21st, places the cumulative economic burden in Canada at $872 billion, by 2038 and warns that it will increase at an “alarming rate” for at least 40 more years unless firm action is taken.
Rising Tide presents a comprehensive forecast of the population health and economic impact of dementia, specific to Canada, for each of the next 30 years. The forecasts are intended to lay out the need for a national plan.
“The figures are cause for great concern, and we hope that this report will act as a call to action for governments and policy-makers,” said Executive Director of the Leeds and Grenville Alzheimer Society, Denise Woods. “It is vital that they recognize that the cost of dementia will continue to increase at an alarming rate and we must work to improve care and support services.”
The forecast further revealed that, barring no changes in policy or significant new scientific discovery, the number of new cases of dementia in 2038 among Canadians 65+ is expected to be 2.5 times higher than that for 2008, which was a projected 103,700 new cases per year, or one case every five minutes, or 1.5 per cent of the Canadian population.
The study classified dementia prevalence into three care types; individuals receiving care in long-term facilities, individuals living at home and receiving community care and individuals living at home and receiving no formal care. Based on historical growth trends, the total number of long-term care beds in Canada is forecasted to grow from 280,000 beds in 2008 to 690,000 in 2038, leaving a shortfall of more than 157,000 beds in 2038. This shortfall is expected to be off-set by a greater demand for community-based services. The increase in Canadians living at home with dementia is expected to jump from 55 per cent to 62 per cent, resulting in a significant shift from long-term care toward community/home-based care.
“What this translates to is potentially, an expected financial burden, including direct and indirect costs, totalling $97 billion by the year 2038,” explained Public Education and Family Support Coordinator of the Alzheimer’s Society of Leeds and Grenville, Sean McFadden, adding that the expected total economic burden is composed of direct health costs, opportunity costs and indirect costs.
Currently, the Alzheimer’s Society of Leeds and Grenville serves approximately, 1700 clients suffering from Alzheimer’s or related dementias.
“The numbers grow every year however the strategy never changes,” explained Woods, adding that the local ALS relies heavily on devoted volunteers and fundraisers to support client services and raise awareness. “We have a clear sense of the scale and impact of this epidemic on our economy, our health care system and the lives of millions of Canadians. We need to address this on a national level if we are going to make a difference.”
According to Rising Tide, Canada is currently woefully unprepared for a coming crisis, leading the Alzheimer’s Society to plead for a national action plan. The report further suggests a comprehensive strategy that includes five components; accelerated investment in research, clear recognition of the role played by caregivers, increasing the recognition of the importance of prevention and early intervention, greater integration of care and ‘best practices’ and strengthening Canada’s ‘dementia workforce’.

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