The current direction of dementia in Canada
In 2020, it was estimated that there were 597,300 individuals living with dementia in Canada. By 2030, we can expect this number will reach close to 1 million. In terms of newly-diagnosed individuals per year—what epidemiologists call annual incidence—in 2020 there were 124,000 new cases of dementia diagnosed (10,333 per month; 348 per day; 15 every hour). By 2030, the annual incidence will rise to 187,000 new cases a year (15,583 per month; 512 per day; 21 every hour).
If we look further into the future, using the latest demographic trends from Statistics Canada combined with our Landmark Study model, we can also predict that the challenges that come with dementia in Canada will further intensify in the 2030s and 2040s. In terms of annual incidence, by the 2040s it is expected that over 250,000 individuals will develop dementia each year (20,833 per month; 685 per day;
29 every hour).
By 2050, the number of people living with dementia will almost triple the 2020 level, and over
1.7 million Canadians will be living with dementia.
The need for care—it’s not an individual journey
Our study found that in 2020 there were 350,000 care partners for people with dementia. With an average of 26 hours of care per week, together this amounts to 470 million hours of care in a year. This number of hours is equivalent to 235,000 full-time jobs (40 hours per week with 2 weeks vacation)—a tremendous contribution of time and resources by care partners for people living with dementia in Canada.
If you translate these hours into dollar figures, even at a federal minimum wage of $15.55 per hour, the care provided by family and friends is greater than $7.3 billion dollars.
Our projections suggest that if not much changes in the current trends, by 2050 the number of care partners for people living with dementia will increase to over 1 million in Canada. This would be almost tripling (188% increase) the number of care partners over the 30-year period.
Given the large number of people living with dementia, and the level of care required, the number of hours provided by family could reach almost 1.4 billion hours annually by 2050. This is equivalent to over 690,000 full-time jobs.
The power of dementia risk reduction
The Landmark Study developed three hypothetical scenarios where the onset of dementia in Canadians was delayed by 1, 5 or 10 years. The goal of these scenarios is to demonstrate what the effect would be on the Canadian population if we were able to improve risk reduction efforts for dementia and delay its onset across our population.
All three hypothetical scenarios demonstrate the power of risk reduction. Even a delay of 1 year could result in almost 500,000 fewer new cases by 2050; this would make a huge difference in national dementia rates across the next three decades. If the onset of dementia could be delayed by 10 years, over 4 million new cases of dementia could be avoided by 2050.
Delaying the onset of dementia could also have an enormous impact on caregiving for people living with dementia in Canada. A 10-year delay could reduce the number of caregiving hours needed by almost 1 billion hours per year.
Differences in dementia rates across regions of Canada
All regions of Canada are expected to see an increase in the number of people with dementia if current trends continue. However, the growth in dementia cases will not be uniform across the country.
Dementia will affect the provinces differently over the next 30 years. Differences in age distributions, migration patterns, and the prevalence of risk factors combine to produce specific challenges, needs, and overall numbers of people living with dementia for each province. Unfortunately, insufficient data was available to study the
Yukon, the Northwest Territories or Nunavut.
Finding the best path forward
Dementia will continue to be a growing issue in Canada, with the number of people living with some form of dementia projected to triple over the next 30 years. If current trends continue, all regions of the country will see a dramatic increase in the number of people with dementia and the demands placed on care partners.
While a cure or an effective treatment for dementia has not yet been discovered, a wide range of actions can be taken to optimize the dementia journey for people in Canada. The final chapter of the report highlights some of the actions that can lead to positive outcomes for people living with dementia and their care partners.
All people in Canada have a role to play in this challenge. As a result, recommendations in the report have been
organized to address these perspectives: What can Alzheimer Societies do? What can health-care systems do? What can the federal, provincial/territorial and municipal levels of government do? What can researchers do? What can individual Canadians do? Across all of these lists, it is important that this work is done collaboratively with people living with dementia and their care partners.
Alzheimer Society Canada