Mr. Speaker, it is a real honour to be here as official opposition critic for seniors and to speak to Bill C-233, the national strategy on Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.
I would like to begin by thanking, particularly, the member for Niagara Falls for introducing this important bill. The secret to the success of the bill moving forward is his non-partisan approach. This is not an NDP, Liberal government, nor an official opposition Conservative Party issue, it is a Canadian issue on which we need to work together as parliamentarians. It is moving forward because of his non-partisan approach and I congratulate the member for Niagara Falls. He is a well-respected member in this House.
Bill C-233 provides for the development and implementation of a national strategy for the health care of persons affected with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.
Just to divert for a moment, my understanding of what my NDP colleague said was that people with dementia, with Alzheimer's disease, deserve to have assisted suicide. I hope that is not what she meant because people with dementia already feel bad and they may feel stigmatized.
They realize that their brain is getting a little fuzzy and they are forgetting. It is frustrating for them and maybe even a little bit embarrassing. We would not want them to think people expect them to take the obvious choice, and we heard that from Dying With Dignity, saying that it would be sensible for persons with dementia, lying in bed in the last years of their life with an adult diaper, to ask for assisted suicide.
That would not work in Canada. It is not dignified to expect people to leave this world because they are in a state of dementia. We need to show them dignity, show them love and support, and only in the most extreme cases should assisted suicide be considered.
When someone's pain is intolerable, irremediable, that is what the court said, and in extreme cases, but assisted suicide and euthanasia should not be considered the norm because it is a horrible loss when someone finds themselves in that situation. We should never put this on to people who are suffering with dementia through Alzheimer's disease or any other dementia disease.
As the seniors critic, I have met with the Alzheimer's Society and many other seniors organizations which are very supportive of this bill. Mimi Lowi-Young, the CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Canada had this to say about Bill C-233:
We’re thrilled that parties are working together so soon after the election to address the urgency of dementia. We all need to get behind this bill. We strongly believe that a national dementia strategy that focuses on research, prevention and improved care is the only solution to tackling the devastating impact of this disease. We’re ready to collaborate with our federal, provincial and territorial partners to make this a reality.
I am really thankful to her and the Alzheimer Society of Canada for supporting Bill C-233. According to the research done by the society, 83% of Canadians have said that they want a national dementia strategy.
I would like to give a brief summary on the issue of dementia. Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia are progressive, degenerative, and eventually fatal. They impair memory, judgment, and the ability to reason, think, and process information. Changes in personality and behaviour also result from dementia.
Currently, 747,000 Canadians have some form of dementia. This number is expected to nearly double to 1.4 million in my lifetime. Three out of four Canadians, 74%, know someone who is living with dementia. As Canada's population ages, the number of Canadians diagnosed with dementia is expected to double.
Research, collaboration, and partnership remain the key to finding a cure. Early diagnosis and support for treatment can lead to positive health outcomes for people with any form of dementia. Early diagnosis also has a positive impact on the family and friends providing care for their loved ones.
The Government of Canada, in consultation with the ministers responsible for the delivery of health care services in each province and territory, should encourage the development of a national strategy for the care of people living with Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia.
What is dementia? Dementia is a difficult disease, but it does not define the person who has it. People with dementia are people first. They can lead happy and vital lives for a long time, especially when the right care and support and understanding is in place. Timely diagnosis is very important. It opens the door to treatment and connects people with the disease and their families with helpful resources like the Alzheimer's Society.
While there is no guarantee, Canadians can reduce their risk of dementia by eating a healthy diet, doing more physical activity, learning and trying new things, staying socially active, quitting smoking, and watching their vitals.
While dementia is not a part of growing old, age is still the biggest risk factor. After age 65, the risk doubles every five years. Seniors represent the fastest growing segment of the Canadian population. Today, one in six Canadians is a senior. In thirteen very quick years, it will be one in four. That is a major demographic shift. Dementia also occurs in people in their forties and fifties, in their most productive years.
A good question that needs to be asked, and is asked, is this. What is the impact of dementia on families and the Canadian economy? For every person with dementia, two or more family members will be providing direct care. The progression of dementia varies from person to person. In some cases it can last up to 20 years. Because of its progression, caregivers will eventually provide 24/7 care.
In 2011, family caregivers spent 444 million hours providing care, representing $11 billion of lost income and about 230,000 full-time jobs. By 2040, caregivers will be providing 1.2 billion hours of care per year.
Dementia is a costly disease, draining approximately $33 billion per year from our economy. By 2040, it will be very close to $295 billion every year.
There is a need for a strategy that includes awareness and research.
It is commonly believed that dementia is a normal part of aging, but it is not. This kind of attitude means too many Canadians are diagnosed too late, and their caregivers seek help when they are in crisis mode. The causes of dementia are still not fully understood. Nor do we have a cure for dementia. Effective treatments are lacking and there is no proven prevention. Dementia can lie dormant in the brain for up to 25 years before the symptoms appear.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia and accounts for over two-thirds of dementia cases in Canada.
What would Bill C-233 achieve? It would achieve a national strategy. The minister or delegated officials would work with representatives of the provinces and territories to develop and implement a comprehensive national strategy to address all aspects of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. Within two years of passing the legislation, every year after that the minister must prepare a report on the effectiveness of the national strategy, setting out his or her conclusions. The national objectives need to be given priority. A report will be tabled in the House during the first days of the sitting after the report is complete.
A number of western countries have a national dementia strategy: the United States, Mexico, Argentina, Belgium, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Finland, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Japan, Israel, South Korea, New Zealand, and Australia. It is Canada's time to have a national strategy.
I again want to thank the member for Niagara Falls for bringing this forward. Together, if we work as a Parliament, we can pass the legislation quickly. It is needed in Canada.