Dementia

More than 432,000 Canadians 65 years and older live with diagnosed dementia. About two-thirds of them are women.

With a growing and aging population, we expect the number of Canadians with dementia to increase.

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Defining dementia

Dementia affects brain function. Dementia may be caused by:

  • neurodegenerative diseases (affecting nerve cells in the brain)
  • vascular diseases (affecting blood vessels like arteries and veins)
  • injuries

Common types of dementia include:

  • vascular dementia
  • Lewy body dementia
  • frontotemporal dementia
  • Alzheimer’s disease dementia
  • mixed dementia (a combination of more than one type)

In rare instances, dementia may be linked to infectious diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Dementia is a set of symptoms that can affect language, mood and behaviour. It may also appear as a decline in cognitive (thinking) abilities. These include:

  • memory
  • planning
  • judgment
  • basic math skills
  • awareness of person, place and time

Dementia is a chronic and progressive condition. It can increasingly interfere with activities of daily living, such as:

  • eating
  • bathing
  • toileting
  • dressing 

Reducing the risk of dementia

Advanced age is the most important risk factor for dementia, but the risk of developing dementia can be reduced throughout your life. The World Health Organization's guidelines on risk reduction of cognitive decline and dementia include:

Canada’s dementia strategy

Canada’s first national dementia strategy, A Dementia Strategy for Canada: Together We Aspire, was released in June 2019. The strategy identifies common principles to help guide all those working on dementia-related initiatives. Its 3 national objectives are to:

  • prevent dementia
  • advance therapies and find a cure
  • improve the quality of life of people living with dementia and caregivers

To develop the strategy, we engaged with many different people and groups.

Our goal was to understand more about the impacts of dementia. We gathered different points of view from a number of sources. These sources included the 6 stakeholder groups mentioned in the National Strategy for Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias Act

  1. people living with dementia
  2. family/friend caregivers
  3. researchers
  4. health care providers
  5. advocacy groups 
  6. representatives of provincial and territorial governments

Activities included:

  • in-person roundtables that brought together people living with dementia and caregivers
  • a national dementia conference
  • discussions with stakeholders

We also:

  • commissioned expert reports
  • reviewed stakeholder submissions
  • started a dialogue with Indigenous organizations

We documented the results of our discussions in the What We Heard Report.

Developing the strategy also included gathering guidance from:

Dementia funding

In 2018, we committed $20 million over 5 years and $4 million per year ongoing to launch the Dementia Community Investment.

This investment funds community-based projects that aim to optimize the well-being of people living with dementia and family/friend caregivers. These projects will develop, test, share and broaden the use of initiatives, knowledge and tools.

We are investing another $50 million over 5 years, starting in 2019–2020, to support key elements of the national dementia strategy. Of this money, $10 million will be used to support a better understanding of the impact of dementia in our communities through surveillance. The remaining $40 million for the Dementia Strategic Fund includes initiatives designed to:

  • increase awareness by:
    • sharing information about preventing dementia
    • reducing stigma
    • encouraging communities to be more inclusive and supportive of people living with dementia and caregivers
  • develop and share treatment guidelines and best practices for early diagnosis

Dementia research

We are providing $31.6 million over 5 years through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to support Phase II of the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging.

This initiative brings together people from across the country to advance research on dementia prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care.

Partners, including provincial agencies and non-profit organizations, are investing an additional $14.4 million. This brings total funding to $46 million.

Between 2014 and 2018, we invested over $200 million on dementia-related research through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. This federal agency supports a broad range of research on dementia, including the biomedical, clinical, health services and population aspects.

Data on dementia

We work with the provinces and territories to collect national data on dementia, using the Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System. This work includes analysis and reporting on the number of Canadians:

  • newly diagnosed with dementia
  • living with diagnosed dementia

With the new dementia funding, we will work with the provinces, territories and other partners to explore ways to improve data on dementia in Canada. Better data will help us better understand how dementia is affecting Canadians.

Programs and services by area

Related links

What else the Government of Canada is doing

What other organizations are doing

Research

Data

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