$1M gift from Chancellor Labarge supports better care for dementia patients


It’s been called Canada’s “Silver Tsunami” – a rising wave of seniors requiring more innovative and specific mental health treatment and care that will only grow as the years continue.

Now, a unique gift from the University’s Chancellor to McMaster and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) will help develop and provide family doctors and caregivers with better ways of identifying and treating seniors with dementia.

The $1M gift from Suzanne Labarge will fund a unique collaboration between two national leaders in healthcare: McMaster and CAMH. Together they will develop protocols for family doctors, nurses and practitioners so they are better able to identify, protect and treat older adults at risk of developing a mental illness.

Family physicians and primary care staff will assess and treat patients who are between 60 and 65 years old. Participants will be selected based on the presence of risk factors that are associated with mental illness in older adults including a previous history of depression, family history of dementia, heart disease or diabetes and social isolation, physical isolation and smoking.

Dementia affects 15 per cent of those 65 and older. By 2040 experts predict the cost of dementia alone will be $293 billion.

“This is a pressing national healthcare need,” Labarge says. “As a country, we must act now to develop and test treatments for seniors who are at risk of developing, or already showing, early signs of mental illness.”

The gift will fund a four-year project involving two teams of family health providers – one in Toronto and one in Hamilton. The teams will develop and then test treatments for patients 60-65 who are at risk of developing depression – which can be a precursor to dementia.

Data gathered from the project groups will be collected and analyzed to determine which approaches and treatments worked best, with a goal of developing new ways for family practitioners to be better able of identifying and treating seniors at risk.

“Canadians are living longer and it is vital we address the mental health issues unique to seniors,” says McMaster’s President Patrick Deane. “Suzanne’s generous support of this national priority is evidenced by this remarkable gift and by her outstanding investments in the Labarge Optimal Aging Initiative whose work is already providing new insights and hope for Canadians.”