If you are wondering why Karen continues to speak about the special care risks that women face, here’s why:

  • More than 75% of long-term care home beds are occupied by women, many of whom suffer from a moderately severe dementing illness
  • According to 2006 Census data, currently 4.3 million Canadians are seniors; one million are over 80, with two-thirds of them being women
  • 4,635 people are over 100, five-sixths of whom are female
  • In 1991, a study of seniors aged 85 or more who suffered from dementia revealed that 70% were women
  • Three reports published by The Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW), the Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and the New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP) all recognized the federal government’s failure to recognize and accommodate women’s different employment patterns, including family caregiving roles that often decrease women’s eligibility and benefits received from both the EI program and the Canada Pension Plan as well as having an impact on women’s work-family balance.

Ever heard of parkinsondiaglaucoma?

And if you are wondering why Karen often talks about the chronic disease epidemic, here are some reasons:

  • People who have complex chronic illness are those who have three or more simultaneous chronic conditions. These are diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, arthritis and HIV/AIDS
  • There have been no cures for major illnesses in the last 50 years (the last disease eradicated was small pox in 1954.) However, new diagnostic and life-saving technologies, medicines and treatments mean that a long list of diseases are no longer terminal upon diagnosis, but chronic. As a result, Canadians are living longer, but often with multiple chronic illnesses.
  • Complex chronic disease currently consumes two-thirds of all health care spending – creating a demand that will only increase as the population ages
  • One-third of Canadians over the age of 60 suffer from complex illness

“Complex Chronic Disease is the biggest healthcare challenge of the century and it has come about because of the success of modern medicine.”

Marion Walsh, President & CEO Bridgepoint Health Complex writes: Chronic Disease is a condition where an individual is living with more than one chronic disease at the same time, for example heart disease and arthritis.

The chronic part comes in because there aren’t cures for things like heart disease or arthritis – so individuals who have these conditions will live with them and often for long periods of time.

The complex part comes in because in many of these circumstances the treatments for one disease react differently when combined with the treatments for another – or the diseases themselves may negatively impact each other or other parts of our bodies.

And believe it or not, complex chronic disease is the number one condition that we are treating in health care today. It is also the success of modern medicine.

Over the past 100 years there have actually been three frontiers of health care…

During the first half of the 20th century, people died young and fast…most often from infectious and communicable disease.

With infectious disease under control by the late 1950’s…people started living longer. Then we discovered that the body is actually made up of a number of complex systems that left to themselves, or to us, will ultimately fail. Modern medicine then turned its attention to understanding human biology and finding ways to diagnose and treat major system failures…and the fact is, we have been hugely successful.

Now we are entering the third frontier. The fact here is that while we haven’t cured things like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or most of the health conditions that affect people, we have been very successful in treating these conditions so that people are now living with them and often, for a long time.

To the point where today, complex chronic disease presents a unique paradox and a new set of challenges for all of us…

Its existence is both a testament to the success of our health care system – and a potential threat to its viability.

If we are to avoid this threat, we must turn our attention to becoming just as successful, in this next frontier, by focusing our health system on preventing and managing complex chronic disease.