Ontario government should OK bill for dementia strategy

Posted on May 20, 2013 in Child & Family Delivery System

TheStar.com – opinion/editorials – Ontario has 200,000 people with dementia and needs a strategy to deal with the growing problem.
May 20 2013

In a season of legislative silliness at Queen’s Park, it was heartening to see the opposition parties support a Liberal private member’s bill that seeks innovative ways to manage the care of people with dementia.

When roughly 200,000 Ontarians have the disease, the government must create a dementia strategy — with a focus on research that can help the elderly live with dignity and without, in the case of long-term care homes, the use of anti-psychotic drugs to control behaviour.

With the support of Progressive Conservative deputy leader Christine Elliott, Liberal MPP Donna Cansfield pushed Bill 54, Alzheimer Advisory Council Act, 2013 <online_link name=”online_link” displayname=”online_link”>http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/bills/bills_detail.do?locale=en&Intranet=&BillID=2775> through second reading last week. That’s no small feat — especially at a time when the Tories have exercised their democratic right to engage in endless debate over government bills dealing with local food, co-op housing and ORNGE oversight.

As Tory house leader Jim Wilson says, freedom of speech was so “suppressed” when the former Liberal majority government had the power to curtail debates that his MPPs now have a pent-up need to talk. Even for politicians, 20 hours of discussion about Ontario-grown food is excessive.

To their credit, however, the Tories avoided political shenanigans with the Alzheimer’s bill. And clearly, Elliott and Cansfield are right when they say that the issue of dementia — whether it’s in long-term care or a private home — matters immensely to the public.

Most Ontarians know someone who suffers from it. Indeed, theAlzheimer Society of Canada reports that more than 500,000 Canadians are living with dementia, with one new case being reported every five minutes.

Bill 54 seeks to establish an Alzheimer’s advisory council to help the government create better strategies for care using the latest dementia research. In particular, more work is needed to ensure nursing homes don’t use anti-psychotics — which can harm the elderly — as chemical restraints.

As Delia Sinclair of the Alzheimer Society of Ontario says, “It’s absolutely imperative to give these individuals a voice and heed their words.”

With a rapidly aging society, the problem will only grow worse. By 2020, the number of people with dementia is expected to reach 250,000 in Ontario. The establishment of an Alzheimer advisory council could provide an overarching strategy for better research and care.

Cansfield says she has introduced similar bills in the past, but received little support from her own government. This time, Liberals should take a page from the Tories and give the bill their blessing.

While the Ministry of Health has created many worthy programs to deal with an aging society, now it must also focus on a dementia strategy. An aging society depends on it.

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