An emotional Health Minister Jane Philpott, brought to tears by her own father’s experience with dementia, suggested Tuesday that the Liberal government plans to support a national strategy to tackle the widespread disease.
“My father is an absolutely amazing person, the wisest and smartest person I’ve ever known and it has affected us a lot because he is not the same person he used to be,” Philpott said outside the Commons.
“It affects my amazing mother who lives with him and takes care of him so I get how much it changes families, how much it affects peoples’ lives and how much we don’t really have great systems in place.”
Dementia is a serious and growing problem, Philpott added, noting it is a pressing issue for other health ministers across the country.
By 2031, it is estimated 1.4 million Canadians will develop dementia — up from 750,000 in 2011.
Philpott conceded much more can be done to tackle the problem, noting the government is receptive to a private member’s bill on the issue which is before the Commons.
Former Conservative cabinet minister Rob Nicholson is sponsor of a piece of legislation that, if passed, would establish a Canada-wide framework for dealing with mental-health conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
The bill has passed second reading and is before the Commons Health committee for study.
Earlier Tuesday, a Conservative senator suggested Canada is a laggard in addressing dementia as he released a committee report urging a national strategy to deal with the problem.
Sen. Kelvin Ogilvie, who chaired the Senate’s committee on social affairs, science and technology, said the federal government should spend $ 30 million a year to ensure a national strategy is properly funded.
Strings also need to be attached $ 3 billion promised by the Liberal government for home care over the next four years, Ogilvie said.
As part of talks on the health accord — a joint agreement being negotiated between Ottawa and the provinces and territories — Philpott said the government will be investing in better access to home and community care as part of an effort to help dementia patients.
The Senate committee, which started its study in February, said it has heard from a number of witnesses and examined programs to identify gaps for patients, caregivers and clinicians.
Dementia is also a personal issue for Conservative leadership candidate Lisa Raitt, who expressed support for a national strategy on Tuesday.
Raitt’s 57-year-old husband Bruce Wood was recently diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease.
“I want better treatment,” Raitt said. “I want a cure.”