People living with dementia are as diverse as the different diseases and conditions that cause these brain disorders. In Canada, we are in danger of failing the rapidly growing number of people living with dementia and their care partners if services and supports are not tailored to their unique needs, according to a new study released by the Alzheimer Society of Canada.
“I think we are at a very pivotal moment,” said Dr. Roger Wong, clinical professor of geriatric medicine at UBC’s Faculty of Medicine and one of the subject matter experts who informed the report, in an interview with The Globe and Mail. “I do believe we have the opportunity to do something now to make the right choices and take the right types of actions in order to collectively improve dementia care in Canada.”
The Landmark Study: The Many Faces of Dementia in Canada is the second of three volumes detailing the demographic, social and economic impact of dementia in Canada. With the rapid rise of Canada’s aging population, the study projects that the number of people living with dementia in the country will increase by 187 per cent by 2050. This is one of the first Canadian studies that seeks to better understand the many faces of dementia and find equitable solutions for future dementia challenges, so that no one is left behind.
“Structural barriers and social determinants of health have had an impact on the brain health of a large segment of the population,” said Dr. Joshua Armstrong, Alzheimer Society of Canada research scientist and lead author of the study. “Our findings highlight that we need to adapt how we help everyone — including Indigenous, racialized and younger adults — live with dementia, while supporting access to care, diagnosis and prevention tools for all.”
Almost one million Canadians will live with dementia by 2030 and its impact will be felt across borders, sectors and cultures. To create positive outcomes, more must be done to fight stigma, discrimination and stereotypes.
“We have to work together to make diversity and inclusion part of a more holistic approach to dementia prevention and management,” said Natasha Jacobs, Advisory Group Lead, Alzheimer Society of Canada. Natasha’s grandfather, originally from Guyana, developed young onset dementia, and as a youth, she was part of his circle of care. “We have often isolated racialized families, or those who have immigrated here. Fear plays a large role in why folks do not reach out for assistance in a timely manner. Support that recognized my family’s needs would have made all the difference for us.”
“From coast to coast to coast, dementia touches us all, if not today then tomorrow,” said Christopher Barry, Chief Executive Officer, Alzheimer Society of Canada. “The Alzheimer Society of Canada is committed to leading the way in transforming the landscape of dementia care and research, from prevention to support. There is a wide range of actions we can take — individually and collectively — to be part of the solution for optimizing our healthcare and support systems.
We have a National Strategy in place and are making progress, but much more work needs to be done, and we have a shared responsibility to see it through.”
Key findings from the report include:
- The number of people living with dementia in Canada is expected to increase by 187 per cent from 2020 to 2050 — with more than 1.7 million people likely to be living with dementia by 2050.
- By 2050, the number of people of Indigenous ancestry living with dementia in Canada is expected to increase by 273 per cent, from 10,800 to 40,300.
- By 2050, almost one out of every four people who develop dementia in Canada will be of Asian origin.
- In 2020, an estimated 4,800 people of African ancestry in Canada were living with dementia, which is predicted to reach over 29,100 in 2050 — a 507 per cent increase.
- In 2020, an estimated 3,500 people of Latin, Central and South American ancestry in Canada were living with dementia, which is predicted to reach over 18,500 in 2050 — a 434 per cent increase.
- In 2020, an estimated 61.8 per cent of persons living with dementia in Canada were female and more than half of care partners were women. By 2050, projections show that over 1 million women will be living with dementia in Canada.
- Young onset dementia (people under age 65) presents distinct challenges, which often lead to delayed diagnoses and difficulty in obtaining workplace accommodations. By 2050, there could be over 40,000 people under the age of 65 living with dementia in Canada, up from an estimated 28,000 in 2020.
The report concludes with a list of actions that Alzheimer Societies across Canada, health-care providers, governments, and researchers can take to better understand dementia in Indigenous populations and diverse communities, along with suggestions on how to tackle the gender gap and young-onset dementia.