Officials call for new approach to growing number of dementia diagnosis in New Brunswick

Click to play video: 'Alzheimer Society of New Brunswick wants comprehensive dementia strategy for province'
Alzheimer Society of New Brunswick wants comprehensive dementia strategy for province
WATCH ABOVE: While the federal government waits for a final vote on a national dementia strategy, the Alzheimer Society of New Brunswick says there needs to be a more comprehensive approach in the province. Global's Adrienne south has that story in Fredericton – Oct 20, 2016

The Alzheimer Society of New Brunswick says a more comprehensive approach is needed as the province addresses the growing concern of people being diagnosed with dementia.

There are more than 16,000 people living with dementia in New Brunswick — a number that grows by 3,000 every year, putting a strain on the health care system, according to Alzheimer Society of New Brunswick Executive Director, Chandra MacBean.

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MacBean says long wait lists for long term care and patients needing long-term care in hospitals are some of the challenges facing many communities in the province.

“The issue has grown to such significance that we feel that no one partner can go at this issue alone, so the Alzheimer’s Society itself, government, the health care system, we need to come together and really look at a comprehensive approach to dealing with this issue in our province,” MacBean said.

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MacBean says there is still a major stigma preventing many people from coming forward and getting an early diagnosis.  She says many families are fearful of speaking with doctors about their symptoms.

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“The diagnosis of dementia is terrifying,” MacBean said, adding she knows of several people living with dementia who kept the disease a secret from their families and neighbours.

“I think stigma adds to the length of time it takes to get a diagnosis, because if an individual isn’t willing to speak about the symptoms they’re having, it adds to the length of time it takes to get a diagnosis,” MacBean said.

While no medication can reverse damage already done by the disease, MacBean says that in the majority of cases medications can slow progression.


She says a federal private members’ bill be going to a final vote this fall that would lay the ground work for a national dementia strategy, which would help provide an overarching structure for resources and services.

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In an email to Global News, a spokesperson from the Department of Social Development says the government recognizes the importance of improving services to people diagnosed with dementia.

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The email says the department is “working with the Alzheimer’s Society, and other partners, to deliver dementia care services in the community as part of the Home First strategy.”

New Brunswick Medical Society President Dr. Lynn Murphy-Kaulbeck says, “issues relating to seniors care, including dementia, have been a priority for New Brunswick’s doctors for years.”

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Murphy-Kaulbeck says the Medical Society has supported the Canadian Medical Association’s “Demand a Plan” initiative for a National Seniors Strategy, adding that last year the organization hosted a discussion on Seniors Care.

“New Brunswick leads the country in terms of the relative age of its population. A provincial dementia strategy, as part of a comprehensive plan for seniors care, could see New Brunswick as a leader in seniors care, as well,” Murphy-Kaulbeck said.

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