Health

Alzheimer's caregivers seek help to cope

Finding an effective treatment for dementia by 2025 is a new goal set by world health ministers who want to improve the quality of life for people who are affected.

Improving quality of life for people with dementia and their caregivers a G8 health goal

Health ministers from the world's largest economies say they're committed to developing a cure or treatment for dementia by 2025 3:20

Finding an effective treatment for dementia by 2025 is a new goal set by world health ministers who want to improve the quality of life for people who are affected.

The G8 health ministers met in London on Wednesday for a one-day summit on dementia, which they said affects more than 35 million people worldwide and is expected to almost double every 20 years.

The ministers committed to 12 goals to address the human and economic toll of dementia-related illnesses, including "the ambition to identify a cure or a disease-modifying therapy for dementia by 2025 and to increase collectively and significantly the amount of funding for dementia research to reach that goal."

They also called for more innovation to improve the quality of life for people with dementia and their caregivers while reducing its emotional and financial burden.

Sandra Atlin, 79, of Toronto, is now a caregiver for her husband Gordon, 86, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease five years ago.

"Learning to cope at an age when learning new things is not so easy," she said. "Every kind of support that there could be would be very valuable in order to keep older couples together at home."

Atlin participated in a program for caregivers at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital that uses role playing to help participants develop skills and practice them.

Dr. Joel Sadavoy is head of geriatric psychiatry at the hospital's Reitman Centre for Alzheimer’s Support and Training, where he regularly sees people in their 80s or 90s who are struggling to provide care for someone at home.

"They need a skill set to be able to deal with a person with dementia, who for example is simply refusing to do anything. Not eating or not bathing or not taking medication," said Sadavoy. "Or somebody who is inappropriate in their behaviour in public. What do you do?"

Canada and France will co-host a meeting in Ottawa next year that will focus on partnerships between academia and industry to put research into practical ideas and care models, Health Minister Rona Ambrose said.

The U.K. government is also appointing a dementia envoy to explore a private and philanthropic fund for global dementia innovation. 

With files from CBC's Kas Roussy and Marijka Hurko

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