OTTAWA – Conservative MP Lisa Raitt’s voice broke with emotion Wednesday as she urged Canadians to speak out about a disease that affects hundreds of thousands of people across the country.
Raitt spoke in the House of Commons in recognition of World Alzheimer’s Day, using her member’s statement time to pay tribute to those who care for Canadians afflicted with the illness.
She called it an illness that many fear.
The disease hit home with Raitt over the last few months.
Her husband, Bruce Wood, was recently diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.
The two had married earlier this month.
“It’s kind of opened my eyes to the struggles that Canadian families have when it comes to a diagnosis like this,” Raitt said in an interview on CTV’s Power Play.
Raitt, who has been leaning toward a run for leadership of the Conservative party, noted that many Canadians don’t speak openly about family members affected by Alzheimer’s.
She told the Commons it’s time to change that.
“Sometimes, we only talk about it in whispers,” said Raitt.
“However, I know this. The more we talk about Alzheimer’s and the more knowledge that we share, the quicker we will get past the stigma and get to the people affected by this disease the support and the care they need,” she said.
Raitt went on to pay tribute to the caregivers, service providers and others who work “to lessen the burden of those suffering from this disease,” before pausing, then tearfully declaring “I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
An estimated 564,000 Canadians are currently living with dementia, with about two thirds of those suffering from Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer Society of Canada.
Another 25,000 new dementia cases are diagnosed each year.
There is currently no cure for the neurological disorder, which mainly affects the elderly but has also been diagnosed in people in their 40s and 50s.
Health Minister Jane Philpott also marked World Alzheimer’s Day, noting that federal support for dementia research has helped in developing new products and services designed to aid patients and their families.