Dementia in Canada

What is it?

Dementia is a loss of mental function that affects daily activities. It happens when cells in the brain die or important nerve connections are broken. This process is known as neurodegeneration.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia. Vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and Lewy body dementia are other common types.

Symptoms and manifestations of dementia can include memory loss, judgement and reasoning problems, and changes in behaviour, mood and communication abilities.

Who is affected?

Data from 2013-2014 show that more than 402,000 seniors (65 years and older) are living with dementia in Canada.Of that number, 2/3 are women.On average, 9 Canadians are diagnosed with dementia every hour.The risk of being diagnosed with dementia roughly doubles every 5 years after age 65.Seniors with diagnosed dementia are 4 times more likely to die than other seniors.

Health impacts

“There is no normal anymore…everything you took for granted in your life has just kind of gone out the window, and you don’t even know what’s going to be thrown at you next. It can be different every time.” – Individual living with a neurological condition
“The impacts of these medical conditions on every facet of our lives are enormous – who could possibly think that people living with a neurological condition wouldn’t need mental health care?”      – Individual living with a neurological condition

As dementia progresses, it becomes highly debilitating for affected individuals and leads to major health impacts:

48% of Canadians living in the community with dementia reported having fair or poor general health;30% reported having mood disorders;58% reported impaired mobility (limited in independent physical movement);37% reported moderate or severe pain and discomfort;57% of them reported urinary incontinence; and32% reported bowel incontinence.

Why is it important?

Aging population

“If dementia doubles in 20 years as has been predicted, we need to know where people are going to go, and what each one costs in terms of resources, implications for rehabilitation, and quality of life." – Individual living with a neurological condition

Our population is aging. This change in our demography means that more Canadians will be living longer, and many will have chronic conditions. For example, thirty percent (30%) of Canadian seniors currently live with two or more chronic conditions.

Women are most affected

Dementia affects women more than men. Women represent about two thirds of people affected, and that is considering Canadians currently living with dementia (prevalence) or those newly diagnosed (incidence). In long-term care facilities, this proportion is even higher, with 72% of residents with dementia being women.

Over the last decade, the prevalence of dementia remained significantly higher in women than in men. This gap between sexes increases with age. After age 85, the prevalence is 1.3 times higher in women than men (27% vs. 20%).


Caring for individuals with dementia requires many types of services delivered by formal and informal care providers. In Canada, the costs of caring for people with dementia are estimated to be 5.5 times greater than caring for people without the condition. Home care and long-term care are the biggest contributors to direct health care costs.

The most common problem for which seniors require help from a caregiver is general needs related with aging (28%). Dementia is the fifth most commonly reported problem requiring help (6%).

“When you take on the role of a caregiver, you enter a life-altering mode. In one phase of your life, you are doing all sorts of wonderful things as a couple, and then in the next phase you are changing your spouse’s diaper. This quantum leap in relationships is burdened with all sorts of psychological and emotional overlays.” – Informal caregiver

On average, 74 hours per week of informal care is required for Canadians living with dementia.Caregivers are spending $4,600 out-of-pocket annually for each person under their care that is living with dementia.

Informal caregivers are frequently the spouse (46%) or child (44%) of the person affected by dementia. Spouse caregivers are equally likely to be a man or a woman but daughters are far more likely (72%) than sons to provide care to a parent with dementia. In addition, the social and financial impacts of caregiving are greater for female caregivers.

What you can do to protect yourself and your family?

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