map of Alzheimer's care in GTA

Why Ontario’s new Alzheimer’s strategy is stalled

One day before the federal health minister’s Oct. 1 announcement that Canada is working on a national strategy on dementia, a high-profile Ontario politician said government is “acting far too slowly.”

Christine Elliott, the Conservative MPP for Whitby–Oshawa, co-sponsored a bill in 2013 called the Alzheimer’s Advisory Council Act, Bill 54. Had it passed, the bill would have established an advisory committee to develop strategies for research and treatment to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia in Ontario. The bill was co-sponsored by the governing Liberals, but died on the order paper before the Ontario provincial election in June.

“Given the statistics related to the tsunami of Alzheimer’s that’s coming at us, we need to have a coordinated strategy in order to be able to deal with it,” Elliott said in a telephone interview.

Currently, the Kathleen Wynne government has not introduced a further strategy to deal with the growing wave of senior citizens at risk.

“In my view, they are acting far too slowly,” said Elliot, who is currently running for the leadership of the Ontario PC party. “This is a very serious concern and we are starting to see more strains in a whole variety of areas because of the government’s failure to deal with it.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, dementia costs Canadians an estimated $33 billion in medical fees and loss of indirect earnings every year. If nothing changes by 2040 that number could climb to $293 billion, according to the Society.

Elliot pointed to the example of the increasing number of elderly with dementia and Alzheimer’s now living in long-term care homes.

“It’s been estimated that up to 40 per cent of the residents do have some form of dementia,” Elliot said.

Elliot’s bill was co-sponsored by now retired Liberal MPP Donna Cansfield, from Etobicoke, who was alarmed after she helped uncover government statistics that revealed elderly residents of long-term care homes were being over prescribed on anti-psychotic medication.

Long-term care provided to Alzheimer’s patients in the Greater Toronto Area. Map by Jennifer Lee and Jenna Reid.