Experts say Manitoba is unprepared for projected spike in Alzheimer’s cases

A new landmark study from the Alzheimer Society of Canada says 1.7 million Canadians will have dementia by 2050 — that’s three times the number of cases in 2020.

Manitoba is set to follow a similar trend, with cases projected to jump from the current 18,400 to 39,100 around the same time.

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Wendy Schettler, CEO of the Alzheimer’s Society of Manitoba, said the data isn’t surprising.

“We did a study a couple of years ago, and two-thirds of Manitobans already identified that they had a close friend or family member who was impacted by dementia,” she said. “And so already more of us are impacted than not.”

According to the study, a rise in cases won’t just affect family members and caregivers of those with dementia — Canada’s health-care system will also take a hit.

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“We’ve seen that it’s just not ready to support people now, let alone when you’re looking at those kinds of increase in numbers, and so we need more investment in our health-care system. We need more investment in home care, in long-term care, in our supports for families who are caring for individuals with dementia. We need more investment in building dementia-friendly communities. There’s so many things that we still need to do,” Schettler said.

Jan Legeros, executive director for the Long Term & Continuing Care Association of Manitoba, said the need for more care spaces was identified 10 years ago.

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“There was a report done back in 2012 by the Center for Health Policy where they projected that we were going to be needing between five and 6,000 more care spaces.”

Legeros said Manitoba currently has 10,000 beds, but that won’t be enough to meet the growing demand. She added that more beds aren’t enough — different care models are needed as well.

“People with dementia do much, much better in environments where they have more elbow room, if you will, than you see in a personal care home, and that’s why over time, the personal care homes have been implementing what we call special needs environments,” she said.

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“They can make a decision on when to have breakfast, when to have a bath, those kinds of things. So it’s not as regimented as it has to be in a smaller space, like a personal care home.”

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Schettler said the government has a role to play in supporting people with Alzheimer’s, but there are a few things individuals can do to reduce the risk.

“What’s good for your heart is good for your brain. So exercise, don’t smoke, take care of your other health risks, manage your weight, reduce your drinking, stay active and engaged with the world. So social connection is really, really important. We’ve learned more and more about how sleep is important. We also have learned that it’s really important to ensure that you’re hearing well and so take care of those pieces, protect your head.”

Schettler said risk reduction methods might not wholly prevent dementia, but they can delay symptoms for a number of years.

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Promising Alzheimer’s research at St. Boniface Hospital – Aug 25, 2022

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