Alzheimer’s Awareness Month: Innovating for Impact

Message from William Reichman, MD, Baycrest President & CEO

According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, there are currently over half a million Canadians living with dementia. In 15 years, that figure is expected to rise to 937,000—an increase of 66 per cent.

Many individuals have had a personal experience related to Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia. One out of every five Canadians has cared for someone living with a form of dementia.

Dementia also has economic impact. As of 2016, the combined healthcare system and out-of-pocket caregiver costs are estimated at $10.4 billion per year. By 2031, this figure is expected to increase by 60 per cent, to $16.6 billion.

Whether on a national or a personal level, we are all affected by dementia.  While many efforts are underway to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, until this happens, we need to focus on what we can do to prevent or delay its onset, and find ways to make the day-to-day lives easier for those and their caregivers living with the disease.

At the Baycrest-led Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CABHI), we support care providers and families in Ontario, Canada, and globally through the testing, validation, and scaling of promising new interventions and technologies to support healthy brain aging and an improved quality of life for people living with dementia. Our success is well-documented, and our work is crucial to supporting individuals as they age in their communities while also reducing the number of emergency rooms visits that contribute to the increase of hallway healthcare.

CABHI is working with companies, healthcare organizations, point-of-care workers and researchers to get new technologies, products and practices quickly and efficiently into the hands of the individuals and families that need them so that older adults can age in the place of their choice.  By accelerating the adoption of new technologies, products and practices that can assist with many of the challenges these individuals face, such as falls reduction and the emotional and behavioral changes that can accompany dementia, we can help long-term care facilities operate as effectively and efficiently as possible and reduce unnecessary emergency room visits and hospital transfers.

The 200+ CABHI-supported projects  are on track to solve some of the most pressing healthcare issues faced by families and communities across the country, while also helping to create jobs, and stimulate the economy.

On a national level, as co-chair of the Ministerial Advisory Board on Dementia, I am pleased to see the progress we are making in developing a National Dementia Strategy that will address the needs of Canadians, today and into the future.  Together, we must ensure that Canadian’s have access to world-leading solutions that are proven to be effective and that can enable our fellow citizens to add quality to the later years of life.  On behalf of CABHI, I want to  commend the federal government on its support in addressing the needs of individuals with dementia through initiatives such as CABHI and others, as outlined in the recent statement made by the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health, on Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.

I encourage you to visit the CABHI blog over the coming month to learn more about CABHI-supported technologies, products and practices making a difference in the lives of older adults and their caregivers, including:

  • Using Virtual Reality to stimulate cognitive health and social engagement, decrease anxiety and depression, and increase independence, in people living with dementia and mild cognitive impairment
  • Dementia Talk App, a new app that supports caregivers of older adults with dementia by helping them track behaviours and develop a care plan
  • Linked Senior, a digital platform that helps recreation staff in long-term care homes engage residents in meaningful and personalized activities
  • A community-led initiative that supports First Nations older adults living with dementia adopt language apps to keep minds active and reduce caregiver stress