A recent report, which revealed that a 2006 groundbreaking study on amyloid-β protein used widely to guide research on Alzheimer’s, may have been falsified is shocking to the dementia community. Years of heavy investments and research will go down the drain if the allegations are proven to be true. Unfortunately, statistics tell us that the current trends in growth of the number of people affected by dementia, and their impact on the economy present an unsustainable trajectory. The numbers are astounding:
- In Canada, it is estimated that by 2033, there will be nearly one million persons living with dementia, almost double the number of known cases in 2014.
- Direct costs of dementia to the Canadian economy were estimated at $12 billion in 2020 and are projected to rise to $16.6 billion by 2031.
- Caregivers of persons with dementia face higher levels of distress than those caring for other seniors. In 2018, the National Institute on Ageing cited the costs associated with caregiving to be estimated at approximately $1.3 billion annually in lost productivity, absenteeism, and turnover for Canadian employers.
We have entered a race against time to minimize these trends. This can be accomplished if the number of new diagnoses is reduced, and therapies that alleviate and eliminate symptoms are made available to patients. Increasing investments in research and services in these areas provides reasonable hope that the dementia growth trajectory could be bent downward.
As a federal non-profit charitable organization advocating for dementia prevention strategies, Hope for Dementia has offered a framework to bend the curve downward, based on insights derived from research. The framework integrates strategies for the prevention, deceleration, and reversal of symptoms and proposes services that should be delivered cost effectively within the health care system as follows:
- Primary prevention: Improving the overall health of the population through primary prevention strategies that aim to reduce the number of preventable diagnoses through education, regular proactive screening, risk mitigation and management in the general population.
- Secondary prevention: Deploying strategies that target at-risk groups and involve symptom deceleration measures such as nutrition modification, assessment and stimulation activities to delay cognitive decline as well as preserve the health of individuals diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment.
- Tertiary prevention: Establish a dedicated public/private sector fund for promising research and clinical trials on symptom deceleration and reversal therapies.
The worsening strain of dementia on our already weakened health care system and resources, and on the economy makes concerted collaborative action imperative and urgent. We call on policymakers, researchers, health care professionals, advocates, and the private sector to rally together in order advocate for and take action to make dementia prevention a national health care priority and keep the hope for a cure alive!