January was Alzheimer awareness month and an opportunity to share information and increase awareness about this degenerative disease. By becoming informed of the signs, symptoms and services available, we can support those currently diagnosed with this disease to remain active and engaged members of their communities.
Up to 70,000 British Columbians are living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia and as our baby boomer population continues to age, this number is expected to grow. This situation is not unique to British Columbia and is becoming a global epidemic as recently highlighted at the G8 Dementia Summit held in London, England.
Because the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia can vary greatly among patients and the diseases can progress very slowly, it is often a confusing and painful time for the patient, their family and their friends.
Canada has been recognized as showing international leadership to improve the lives of people suffering with this illness.
Recently, a new $7.5 million fund to advance BC’s research into Alzheimer’s disease was announced with funding coming from Brain Canada, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, Genome British Columbia and the Pacific Alzheimer Research Foundation. The Ministry of Health has been working hard on this front and released new guidelines on managing the behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia; a key action in the Provincial Dementia Action Plan and part of our Seniors Action Plan.
By forming partnerships, the Government of BC is working to leverage resources to develop best practices for supporting diagnosed individuals and their families, such as the First Link program, which offerd customized information and access to services as soon as possible after diagnosis.
The ministry, health authorities and front line staff have taken an important step forward to improve the welfare of patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia and have been working on the implementation of a training program developed by P.I.E.C.E.S. Canada. The P.I.E.C.E.S. program is designed to provide a systematic framework for detection, assessment and care planning, using a comprehensive interdisciplinary client-centred approach. Implementation of the P.I.E.C.E.S. program in all health authorities will complement the resources that already exist to support caregivers to provide care for those suffering with dementia.
I would like to encourage all British Columbians to take some time to learn more about Alzheimer’s and dementia and do what you can to spread awareness and support affected families. Connect with the Province of BC at: www.gov.bc.ca/connect
Submitted by Terry Lake, BC Minister of Health