Finally, funding for a provincial dementia strategy in Ontario

senior couple, dementia

Toronto, ON, May 3, 2017 – The Ontario government announced some good news for more than 200,000 people suffering from dementia and their loved ones. It announced their commitment to invest more than $100 million over three years towards the implementation of a dementia strategy in last week’s Provincial Budget.

“Dementia is a debilitating disease that, over time, affects an individual’s ability to concentrate, think clearly, and complete everyday tasks necessary for independent living,” says Wanda Morris, VP of Advocacy, CARP. “But with proper care and resources, people with dementia can live longer at home and in the community with a better quality of life.”

Some of the new supports that are part of Ontario’s dementia strategy include:

  • Increasing access to adult day programs for people with dementia and additional hours of care and transportation to help people travel to their local program location.
  • Enhancing caregiver respite services, both in-home or overnight, so that caregivers can schedule breaks for rest, family commitments or other priorities.
  • Expanding behavioural supports, which are tools and techniques used to address behavioural symptoms of dementia, in all long-term care homes and providing similar support at home and in the community.
  • Improving the coordination of care, including building strong partnerships between primary, specialist and community care providers that are critical to help people with dementia live well.
  • Continuing to invest in health care providers’ education with in-person, educational resources and public awareness about the signs and symptoms of dementia to support geriatric care.
  • Raising awareness about dementia risk factors and red ucing stigma through targeted public awareness campaigns to inform and educate people in Ontario about dementia and how to maintain a healthy brain.

Through the new dementia strategy, the province will ensure that everyone living with dementia in Ontario, their families and their care partners have the right supports, funding and tools in place to make informed decisions about their care and that they continue to be treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve.

Advocacy Campaign for Dementia Strategy

According to Chris Denis, CEO at the Alzheimer Society of Ontario, a fully-funded and comprehensive dementia strategy will help ensure people living with dementia, their care partners and their families have access to the resources and services they need to live well, and for as long as possible at home and in the community.

Earlier this year, CARP and the Alzheimer Society of Ontario partnered to engage thousands of CARP members and Ontarians in a petition to support a fully-funded dementia plan.

Over the past two years, the Alzheimer Society has worked closely with the provincial government and other stakeholders, and Ontarians who have provided input into and demonstrated support for a province-wide strategy.

There was once an Alzheimer’s Strategy for Ontario in 1999 but sadly it dissolved. This is the province’s second attempt and making a strategy and implementing it successfully.

More than $100 million over three years has been allocated for the Ontario Dementia Strategy –to support people with dementia and those who care for them through better coordinated and enhanced services. This will include funding to expand province‐wide access to community programs and other investments to enhance access to care, information and support from as early as possible once a diagnosis is made.

The strategy will help people living with dementia and their care partners find and access the most appropriate care and supports and improve training and education in dementia care for personal support workers, physicians, nurses and other front‐line workers. An additional $20 million for respite care was also announced in the provincial budget.

“The Ontario government has finally given people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias and their caregivers hope for a better way of life,” says Karen Harrington, who spent five challenging years caring for her husband Grant Crosbie before he succumbed to an aggressive form of Alzheimer’s.

Harrington participated in provincial consultations on a dementia strategy and along with thousands of other Ontario families, advocated for the need for a well-resourced provincial strategy.

“What the Ontario dementia strategy does not address, however, is the special care needed for dementia sufferers in long-term care homes,” says Morris. “Often families report that their loves one seem to decline much faster in long-term care homes and much worse become victims of violence and death.”

By 2020, 250,000 Ontarians are expected to have dementia, a number that will be fueled by an aging population, creating greater economic and social challenges for families, communities and society more broadly.

“Ultimately, ongoing commitment to an Ontario-wide strategy will minimize the impact of the disease and create a more coordinated and integrated system of care,” says Dennis.

Quick Facts

  • Ontario is proposing to invest $100 million over three years towards the dementia strategy.
  • There are approximately 175,000 people in Ontario living with dementia, with the number expected to grow as the population ages. It is estimated that 6.5 per cent are 66 years old and younger.
  • These investments build on Ontario’s work to improve the lives of people living with dementia and their families, which includes annual funding for Behavioural Supports Ontario, supporting the Finding Your Way initiative that helps people living with dementia live more safely in their communities, and strengthening Alzheimer Society chapters across Ontario.
  • The health care budget will total $53.8 billion in 2017-18 — a 3.8 per cent increase from the previous year.
  • Ontario’s Dementia Strategy is part of Ontario’s Patients First: Roadmap to Strengthen Home and Community Care, which is the government’s plan to improve and expand home and community care over three years.
  • Ontario’s Dementia Strategy was informed by public consultations with thousands of people in Ontario, including people living with dementia and their care partners, health care providers and organizations sharing their views through in-person and online consultations.

Through the 2017 budget, Ontario is also making it easier for people who care for loved ones, with more respite services that allow people to take a break from their unpaid duties, increased education and training opportunities for caregivers, and a new, streamlined Ontario Caregiver Tax Credit.

Click here to find out how you can help prevent elder abuse of dementia patients in long-term care homes.