The recently released report to the provincial government from the New Brunswick Council on Aging points to the need for a provincial dementia strategy to align with the proposed national plan.
After meeting with over 40 stakeholder groups across the province, the council made 70 recommendations to government to address issues stemming from the aging population.
Among them was the creation of a dementia strategy to combat a situation they say will only get worse if it isn’t addressed quickly.
“It is already having a profound impact on primary care, on hospitals, acute care hospitals, nursing homes, the whole nine yards,” explained Ken McGeorge, the Council on Aging’s co-chair. “And it’s simply because we don’t have any coherent strategy.”
“Dementia is taking over the health system,” McGeorge said.
As our population increases in age more dementia diagnoses will be seen.
Currently, approximately 17,000 New Brunswick families are impacted by dementia.
McGeorge said instituting a provincial framework has been proven effective in the past.
“I can remember when early in my career with cancer, before there was a strategy and treatment and diagnosis was all over the place, cancer was an automatic death sentence,” he said. “Look at what’s happened by virtue of having a wonderful strategy both nationally and provincially. It is no longer a death sentence and people live with great hope.”
The Alzheimer Society of New Brunswick says an effective provincial strategy will be one that addresses flaws in the system that sufferers and their families face at all stages of the journey.
“We need to kind of provide that umbrella coordination around the issues that individuals with dementia struggle with everyday,” explained Chandra MacBean, executive director for the society. “We’d love to see something in there about improving primary care, so not just access to diagnosis and treatment but making sure there’s better system navigation for a person with dementia.”
In 2014, the Canadian Institute for Health Information estimated the average cost per dementia-related hospitalization in New Brunswick at $13,073.
MacBean said many of those stays aren’t necessarily due to a dementia sufferer requiring acute care but instead issues with a caregiver can make it the only option.
It’s something she hopes can be addressed head on to keep the number of hospital beds taken by those with dementia from skyrocketing in the years to come.
“We’re just starting to see the hump of the baby boomers who are being impacted by dementia and we know that the worst is not yet here, it’s just starting to knock on our doorstep,” she said. “We have a real chance to set the stage here.”