Alzheimer’s Awareness Month
Honourable senators, I rise today to mark Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, which takes place every January in Canada.
For Canadians living with dementia, discrimination is one of the biggest barriers to enjoying meaningful and productive lives. Stigma, stereotypes and misconceptions often prevent people from being open about their symptoms or asking for help.
A recent survey by the Alzheimer Society found that while awareness about dementia has increased, stigma and negative attitudes around it continue to persist. It also found that one in four Canadians would feel ashamed or embarrassed if they had dementia.
In November 2016, the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology tabled a report, Dementia in Canada: A National Strategy for Dementia-friendly Communities. The committee’s report made 29 recommendations aimed at helping the growing number of Canadians who have or will develop some form of dementia as well as those who will care for them.
Together with the passage of Bill C-233, the National Strategy for Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias Act, in June of 2016, dementia has been elevated to a national priority. Strategy will strengthen research, build on innovative work already underway and offer a coordinated pan-Canadian approach to care.
I am confident that the strategy will offer fresh hope to the more than 560,000 Canadians who live with dementia. A world-class strategy will also prepare Canada to care for the close to 1 million Canadians who will have some form of dementia in less than 15 years from now.
Honourable senators, the stigma surrounding dementia is immense and to change that is a difficult challenge. People living with dementia often feel excluded or treated differently because of their condition. Alzheimer’s Awareness Month seeks to change this.
As this special month draws to a close, we must continue to confront these stigmas if we are to improve the lives of those living with dementia.