Waterloo Region doesn’t have enough trained caregivers to help with the soaring demand for dementia care, according to the Alzheimer Society of Kitchener-Waterloo.

There’s been a 50 per cent increase in demand for the Society’s services and it says the referral rate increased 100 per cent from 2009 to 2012.

Not only is demand increasing, but caring for people with dementia is much more involved, says Charlotte Sider, the public education coordinator for the Alzheimer Society of Kitchener-Waterloo.

"People with dementia really require consistent and stable assistance. It can't just be a different person every day, because of their confusion," said Sider.

"You can imagine, for a person already confused, and then they don't even have the consistency of a stable person in their life who's supporting them."

'The facilities just aren't there'

The system has struggled to care for Michelle Steane's father David, who was diagnosed with frontal temporal dementia -- a type of early onset dementia -- at age 53.


Michelle Steane's father, David, was diagnosed with early onset dementia at 53. Since then he has been transferred between Waterloo Region's mental health units and nursing homes, with no place appropriate for his unique needs. (Matt Kang/CBC)

He can't stay at home, but doesn't belong in a hospital mental health ward or traditional long term care, either.

"He liked to run in the hallways and he was just a lot more physically fit and faster than the other patients," said Steane.

"If you brush up against an old lady, there's a possiblity of maybe breaking a hip, breaking an arm or just hurting them in the slightest bit, it's not really an option."

Her father has been bumped from hospital to nursing home and back again since October 2010, and is now at Grand River Hospital's Seniors Mental Health Unit until they can find a more suitable place for him to stay.

"The problem is the facilities just aren't there and they can't work with what doesn't exist," said Steane.

"I don't place any blame on [the CCAC] at all. They are doing the best that they can with what they have, working to meet his needs but it's really a matter of there aren't a wide enough variety of services in the region. And considering that the baby boomer population is reaching the point where these types of diseases start to show the wait lists are just going to get longer and longer."

System already stretched too far

The number of people living with dementia in the Waterloo-Wellington Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) was 9,784 in 2012 – and Charlotte Sider said that’s on the rise.

In fact, she said the number of people living with dementia locally is projected to grow by 28 per cent between 2008 and 2016. 

Sider says lately, the province has put a lot of emphasis on person-centred care, and that’s a good sign, but agencies will need more money to make that vision a reality.

"If the system is pretty taxed and stretched right now, it's just like an elastic. You know, eventually, that elastic will not be able to withstand the forces on it and it will break. In a sense, that's the issue right now. We're already taxed with the number of people presenting themselves," said Sider.

About a quarter of families in which someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other dementias in Waterloo Region get care from the Alzheimer’s Society of Kitchener Waterloo.

With files from the CBC's Jackie Sharkey and Matthew Kang