Muskoka Chapter: Muskoka dementia advocates lobby at Queen’s Park

This article was posted on, published in Bracebridge Examiner on May 21, 2015. Click here to read the article.

In the aftermath of a defeated national dementia strategy representatives from Ontario headed to Queen’s Park to speak their piece.

It was early May when a private members bill seeking a national strategy for dementia was defeated in second reading but that doesn’t mean advocates have given up.

“Obviously I was disappointed that it wasn’t supported but I’m still confident that we’ll have a dementia strategy,” said Karen Quemby, executive director of the Alzheimer Society of Muskoka.

It was Alzheimer Canada that was pushing for the national strategy at the same time Alzheimer Ontario was organizing a day at the legislature on May 13 that provided an opportunity to meet with local MPPs.

The province of Ontario has committed to an Ontario Dementia Plan.

“The day was well planned and ran seamlessly from start to finish. The dementia champions were amazing and truly represented our societies and demonstrated the expertise of people with lived experience of dementia,” said Quemby. “The support and recognition from MPPs sitting and in opposition was encouraging and gives hope that the tireless advocacy of societies across the province will not go unnoticed as we move forward with plans for a dementia strategy.”

Quemby said her own meeting with Miller went well.

“He certainly listened to our thoughts. He was given an agenda just like we were that we went over and he was very receptive,” she said.

Quemby and Miller were joined by Alzheimer Society of Canada board of directors vice-chair Vic Prendergast, and Shelley Raymond of Soleterra Housing and the Muskoka chapter of CARP, a senior advocacy group.

“She’s always been an advocate for housing and both her parents had dementia,” said Quemby of Raymond, who has worked as a volunteer for the Alzheimer Society of Muskoka. “Over the years she has expressed an interest in advocacy.”

They also had an opportunity to pose questions around dementia in question period, although much of the day was dominated by conversations around Hydro One and education.

Quemby said the feedback she has been seeing via email since the event from the other societies across the province is positive.

“We can do something about it,” she said. “We have to work together to meet the dementia challenge.”

The key recommendations of an Ontario Dementia Strategy include incorporating expertise of lived dementia from those with dementia and their families; creating an overall approach for local planning; increasing public awareness about brain health and early diagnosis; increasing caregiver respite support and education; and improving the skills of those working with people with dementia and their families.

And the key messages they took to Queen’s park are the number of people with dementia is increasing; positive steps are being taken by people to reduce the risk of dementia and modify its impacts; and dementia impacts the whole health system and is more than just a health issue.

There were 27 one-to-one meetings with members of provincial parliament and advocates, such as their meeting with Miller, and 30 MPPs attended a lunch with the dementia advocates.

Quemby was pleased by the response to the 20 Alzheimer Societies on Ontario who attended that day. They made contact with 57 MPPs, which is 53 per cent of the legislature.

“That’s an incredible number if you consider the huge number of people you are competing with for MPP time,” she said.