Alzheimer’s patient Dorothy Morgan has a message for politicians of all stripes and affiliations in Victoria.
“I think the government of this province is in for the shock of its life when it wakes up to find there’s a crisis,” she said.
That crisis is expected as more and more of the baby boom generation reach the age when they’re at the greatest risk for developing Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
Morgan – who was diagnosed in 2009, but still manages to function at a comparatively high level – was one of the most outspoken of some 30 people who last week attended a first community meeting, sponsored by the Alzheimer Society of B.C., launching Jim’s Push For A Plan, at White Rock’s Centre for Active Living.
The initiative is spearheaded by South Surrey’s Jim Mann, who was himself diagnosed with dementia in 2007 at the age of 58, and has since been a tireless speaker and advocate raising awareness for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
His pitch, which he vows to bring to elected politicians, aspiring candidates and business and community leaders in the lead-up to the next provincial election, is that B.C. needs a provincial dementia plan now, before a “rising tide” of dementia cases engulfs the health care system, overwhelming hospitals, long-term care facilities, caregivers, families and home support workers.
“I’m pushing for a plan and I’m pushing real hard,” said Mann, a former communications professional who has written about his experiences with dementia for the Peace Arch News.
Mann said some 70,000 people in B.C. have already been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or some other dementia, and every year some 15,000 more develop the symptoms, increasing the financial burden on B.C. residents through increased public health spending.
For each of those cases, there are three or four others whose lives are directly affected by the emotional and financial tolls, he said – and it’s probable the number of those dealing with dementia, either directly or as a relative or caregiver, will increase exponentially now the baby boomer generation is reaching its senior years.
Mann noted that while Alzheimer’s and other dementias are not a function of old age – his diagnosis at a comparatively early age is a case in point – the risk factor increases with age.
“The associated costs to B.C. will reach a crisis point,” he said, predicting the crunch will come during the next four years.
“It won’t be at some far-off point – it’ll be during the mandate of the next government.”
Although local MLAs and declared candidates had been invited to the Oct. 30 meeting, none was there during Mann’s address to the group (although a representative of Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg was present). The majority of those who attended from the community were either patients or their caregivers.
But Mann said following his speech the meeting was just a first step in an extended campaign through the Alzheimer Society.
And he urged those present to talk to neighbours about the campaign, write letters to media and meet with MLAs and MLA candidates.
For more on Jim’s Push for a Plan, visit www. alzheimerbc.org, or phone Barbara Lindsay, senior manager of advocacy and public policy, at 604-681-6530.