The National Dementia Conference: A vital step in influencing research and care

“Goodbye to the days when our argument was strong, but our politics were weak.” Kenneth Rockwood

The National Dementia Conference was held in Ottawa on May 14-15, 2018. Although this conference was a requirement of the Act, “respecting a national strategy for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias” (assented to June 22, 2017), the meeting was anything but a bureaucratic undertaking.

Beginning with the opening address by Canada’s Minister of Health (MoH), The Honorable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, the meeting was characterized by a high degree of enthusiasm, commitment, and energy. Petitpas Taylor spoke movingly about her mother’s experience with Lewy body dementia, and shared her own personal struggles navigating the system, even as a social worker with twenty five years’ experience. What’s more, she spoke about variations in her siblings’ coping styles (noting she comes from a family of nine children).

Over the course of two days, people living with dementia, their care partners, clinicians, researchers, healthcare administrators, and policy makers all engaged in spirited discussions on a broad range of topics. This included representation from several researchers within the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA).

Next steps

The CCNA, in working with the Alzheimer Society of Canada and other key stakeholders, aims to help design and implement Canada’s research strategy. This will involve careful and critical conversations, especially benefitting from the establishment of a fifteen-person Advisory Council appointed by the Minister. At her behest, the Advisory Council has already met twice to consider how to move forward on developing and implementing a national dementia strategy – particularly on how to ensure that the argument is as strong as the political will now appears to be. Two leaders within the CCNA (Howard Chertkow and Kenneth Rockwood) are also members of the Advisory Committee. How they will help fashion the plan to move dementia policies forward will be an important test of how the CCNA can help Canadians in this critical societal and health challenge.

Expectations are high – not just for the research strategy mandated by the Act – but for how that will influence care and research.