Health Policy

Building Bridges: A Call for a Coordinated Dementia Strategy in BC

April 1, 2004

Dementia is a complex, degenerative condition that erodes an individual’s cognitive abilities. It is a vicious disease that over time steals people’s memories, talents and even their identities. The most well-known form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, but there are many other forms. People suffering from dementia require a considerable level of care and support from their families, and the health care system.

Dementia is a “sleeping giant” that our healthcare system is simply not prepared for. The challenges in the years ahead regarding dementia are considerable. Today there are at least 45,000 people in British Columbia living with dementia. By 2011, it is estimated there will be 55,000 people with dementia in BC – an increase of 22% in just 7 years.1 Historically, 8% of all Canadians over age 65, and 34.5% of people over age 85, have some kind of dementia.

Seniors, particularly those over age 85 are the fastest growing segment of BC’s population. The effort and resources that patients and their families need to care for people with dementia are enormous. Yet today, British Columbia is one of the few remaining provinces in Canada without a coordinated dementia strategy. Provinces such as Ontario, Alberta and Manitoba, as well as other countries such as New Zealand and Australia are considerably further ahead.

Therefore, the Doctors of BC is calling on the provincial government to develop and implement a coordinated dementia strategy.

The Doctors of BC is making 23 recommendations in the following six areas:

  1. Making caring for dementia a priority
  2. Including dementia in chronic disease management
  3. Supporting the provision of comprehensive care
  4. Matching residential and community services with needs
  5. Improving the coordination of services
  6. Providing coverage for dementia medications

The Doctors of BC is committed to a constructive dialogue on dementia, and will be actively engaging government, other health care providers and key agencies in developing this strategy. There is a considerable amount of hard work being done to care for British Columbians with dementia, and it is now time to bring these pieces together.

For the full policy paper, please see “Building Bridges: A Call for a Coordinated Dementia Strategy in BC”.