Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to Motion No. 575 on Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.
Dementia is an issue that affects a large number of Canadians, so it is important that we have ample opportunity to debate it in the House and ensure that it receives the attention it deserves. I know my colleague, the hon. member for Huron—Bruce, brought forward this motion with exactly that intention.
Motion No. 575 calls on the government to continue to take the necessary measures, while respecting provincial and territorial jurisdiction, to prevent Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, and to reduce the impact of dementia for those living with this disease, their families and caregivers. The things called for in this motion will ensure that is done.
Dementia is a complex public health challenge that affects thousands of families across Canada. In fact, three out of four Canadians know someone who is affected by dementia, and it is estimated that the number of Canadians living with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, now estimated as high as 15%, will double by 2031.
Dementia is a health condition with important social implications. Its effects are wide-reaching and have a significant impact on those living with the condition, their families and caregivers. These can include the loss of independence, stigma and discrimination, as well as social isolation for those affected.
Dementia has no cure, and as the causes are not precisely known, we do not know whether it is preventable. Possible risk factors include physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, environmental influences, genetic factors and severe brain injury.
While the search for a cure continues, there is a need to develop innovative approaches and new models of care and support to improve the quality of life of those living with dementia today. A significant part of this includes addressing any stigma and incorrect assumptions about what it is like to have dementia or to care for someone who has dementia. Our government is making investments to help improve our understanding of dementia and the full scope of its impact. It is important to understand what dementia is and what it is not.
Dementia is often thought of as a disease affecting memory. While forgetfulness and the fear associated with suddenly not remembering people and places is certainly one aspect, it is important to realize that dementia is a neurological condition that affects the whole brain, and not just the memory. The ability to communicate, changes in mood and behaviour, and the capacity for judgment and reasoning are also affected by dementia. Over time, daily and routine tasks become difficult to perform.
By better understanding how dementia affects the lives of people from its early stages onward, as well as the potential risk factors, we can better support people affected by dementia in maintaining their independence and quality of life.
As symptoms progress, people with dementia generally require increased levels of care. With the increase of the number of people living with dementia, it is important for us to develop innovative solutions that can extend the independence of people living with dementia and improve their quality of life.
Most of the care and support provided to persons living with dementia takes place in the community and comes from informal sources, such as spouses, family and friends. Those who provide care for individuals living with neurological conditions such as dementia tend to provide more hours of support and are twice as likely to experience distress compared to other caregivers.
As dementia becomes more prevalent, it is increasingly important that caregivers also receive the support to respond to the levels of care they need to give and maintain their own well-being.
These social challenges of dementia are being recognized, and our government is investing in efforts to improve the quality of life of those living with dementia, their families and those who care for them.
The motion calls on the government to focus on education and awareness to reduce the stigma associated with dementia, including the implementation of the Dementia Friends Canada initiative.
I am pleased to see that our government has been moving quickly to support those who are working on this project. Just last week, on June 5, our Minister of Health announced the launch of Dementia Friends Canada in collaboration with the Alzheimer Society of Canada. This program is a national public engagement initiative to support the growing number of Canadians living with dementia. It will engage Canadians in understanding what it means to live with dementia and how to better support those affected in our communities.
Through an investment of more than $2 million over two years, the government is supporting the Alzheimer Society of Canada in launching this initiative across the country.
An important aspect of Dementia Friends Canada is that we seek to engage workplaces and individuals in a dialogue that will help everyone understand what it means to have dementia and what kinds of steps can be taken to make Canada more dementia friendly. By becoming aware of the actions that can be taken, Canadians can help people affected by dementia feel connected and supported. Larger organizations, workplaces, and communities may find other innovative ways in which they can meet the needs of those affected by dementia. I am very impressed with this program.
The health minister also undertook to raise awareness of it just last night through an open house to encourage all parliamentarians to sign up as dementia friends, learn about what they can do, and commit to making a difference.
People with dementia need our support, kindness, patience, and understanding. Dementia Friends Canada encourages people to make communities and workplaces across Canada more welcoming to those living with dementia, their families, and their caregivers.
The goal is to reach one million Canadians participating in Dementia Friends Canada within the next two years. There is some precedent for success already. Dementia Friends Canada is in fact modelled after similar programs in Japan and the United Kingdom that have helped advance support for those living with dementia in those countries.
Dementia is about people. How we treat those living with dementia can make a difference. Simple, everyday actions can help people living with dementia feel supported, stay connected in their communities, and improve their overall quality of life. Initiatives such as Dementia Friends Canada represent a call to action to work together to make life better for the growing number of Canadians who are living with dementia.
While we are making inroads in addressing the challenges presented by dementia, we are by no means done yet. By working in partnership with other sectors, including the provinces and territories, workplaces, not-for-profit organizations, the private sector, other countries, international organizations, and people living in communities across Canada, we will continue to advance our progress in addressing dementia.
I encourage all my colleagues to visit the Dementia Friends Canada website and register as dementia friends. It is through initiatives like these collective and individual actions that we can help to make a positive change today.