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Manitoba not prepared for rising dementia rates: report

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A new report from a seniors’ advocacy group says Manitoba is unprepared for rising rates of dementia as the province’s population ages.

The report, released by CanAge on Oct. 18, found that one in six Manitobans is already over 65. Although that number is lower than the national average, CanAge believes the healthcare system will be overwhelmed by a flood of dementia patients. by 2050.

The report’s findings are particularly concerning for Manitobans who already live with dementia.

“I don’t know if they’re going to have enough people for all of us, to take care of us,” Dave Geller told CTV News on Friday.

Geller started losing her memory about two years ago. The 63-year-old says he sometimes struggles to remember conversations he had with his future wife, Jil Brody.

“I can talk to him, but in the afternoon I probably forgot about the conversation,” Geller said.

Geller was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment earlier this year. It is a condition that usually appears before a diagnosis of dementia.

He was referred to a specialist, but there is no deadline for an appointment. It’s a waiting game that Geller and Brody don’t want to participate in.

“I know there’s no cure for dementia,” Brody said. “But there are medications that can help slow it down and help the individual cope.”

CanAge CEO Laura Tamblyn Watts said Manitoba doesn’t have a long-term strategy in place to meet the needs of people like Geller.

“If Manitoba continues to ignore its aging population with a high incidence of dementia, it will break its public health and social care systems,” Tamblyn Watts told CTV News on Friday. “The number of people who are going to come with health needs and problems [concerns] they’re going to overwhelm hospitals, they’re going to overwhelm personal care homes, and they’re going to overwhelm family caregivers.

CanAge is calling on the province to develop a comprehensive dementia plan as part of its seniors care strategy. This is a sentiment shared by the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba.

“We are unprepared for an increase in dementia cases here in Manitoba because we are not currently providing adequate support for people with dementia,” said Erin Crawford, program director at the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba.

Crawford said that includes people trying to get a diagnosis, as well as those seeking home or long-term care.

“There just isn’t enough for those who need it now, and there won’t be enough for those who need it later.”

A government spokesperson said the province is reviewing CanAge’s report and points to a recent investment of $1.3 million to support the expansion of the “First Link” program through the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba.

The spokesperson also said the province is committed to developing and implementing a seniors strategy, which “will help older Manitobans live as independently as they want in their own homes for as long as it will be safe to do so”.

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