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Speak to your MP about their plans for the new Alzheimer’s reality

June 2011

At a recent international conference on Alzheimer’s disease, held in Toronto, I listened to many fascinating and diverse presentations. My main interest is the psychosocial aspect of the disease. Interestingly, many speakers, from various countries, had a strong message for Canadians.

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is growing at such a rapid pace that it is expected that by 2050, there will be 115 million people affected worldwide. During last month’s election, Canadians were urged to seek out political candidates and ask questions about their strategy, both short term and long term, with regard to this disease.

Canadians with dementia will double in the next generation to 1.3 million people with a cumulative cost of $872 billion, according to Rising Tide, The Impact of Dementia on Canadian Society. The report highlights the fact that many of these people will be diagnosed before they reach 65.

The Canadian Alzheimer Society posted a letter on their website suggesting three questions residents could ask their MPs:

1. Would your party commit to meeting the needs of the 500,000 Canadians with dementia with a national brain strategy?

2. Would your party commit to a comprehensive and universal package of support programs for family caregivers?

3. Would your party support these investments (see letter on Alzheimer’s Society of Canada website) and commit to the $100-million contained in the budget for brain-disease research as a first step toward a comprehensive, permanent federal research program?

I admit to not being very politically aware. While I was fascinated by the charisma of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, I was more interested in the persona than the politics. I sometimes regret not having moved out of Quebec in the ’70s, as many of my friends headed west on the 401. But the strong message at this conference got me interested enough to want to ask my MPs some questions. Coincidentally, I was confronted with a personal issue where I felt my rights as a Canadian were wronged.

I sent off an email requesting a meeting with my MP or with one of his assistants. After a couple of days, I received a reply informing me that I would be contacted by the MP’s assistant. After two more days, I sent a thank-you note saying I was looking forward to hearing from the assistant. Another couple of days passed and I called the office at 10:30 a.m. to hear a recorded message saying the office would be open from 10-12 and 1-4 during election time.

I left a message that included phone where I could be reached. The following day, I dropped in to the office and asked not about dementia, but about their lack of response. The person who was to have contacted me heard my story and invited me to talk with her.

She was bright and charming and spoke well, explaining the lack of response and offering a chance to meet with the MP.

While she was quite sympathetic, there was not much she could offer other than a list of other people to contact. I handed her my card and asked her to email me the information. She promised to so. And? You got it, no message from her, and no vote for that party from me.

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