Largest study of its kind finds alcohol use biggest risk factor for dementia

Alcohol use disorders are the most important preventable risk factors for the onset of all types of dementia, especially early-onset dementia. This according to a nationwide observational study, published in The Lancet Public Health journal, of over one million adults diagnosed with dementia in France.

This study looked specifically at the effect of alcohol use disorders, and included people who had been diagnosed with mental and behavioural disorders or chronic diseases that were attributable to chronic harmful use of alcohol.

Of the 57,000 cases of early-onset dementia (before the age of 65), the majority (57%) were related to chronic heavy drinking.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines chronic heavy drinking as consuming more than 60 grams pure alcohol on average per day for men (4-5 Canadian standard drinks) and 40 grams (about 3 standard drinks) per day for women.

As a result of the strong association found in this study, the authors suggest that screening, brief interventions for heavy drinking, and treatment for alcohol use disorders should be implemented to reduce the alcohol-attributable burden of dementia.

“The findings indicate that heavy drinking and alcohol use disorders are the most important risk factors for dementia, and especially important for those types of dementia which start before age 65, and which lead to premature deaths,” says study co-author and Director of the CAMH Institute for Mental Health Policy Research Dr. Jürgen Rehm. “Alcohol-induced brain damage and dementia are preventable, and known-effective preventive and policy measures can make a dent into premature dementia deaths.”

Dr. Rehm points out that on average, alcohol use disorders shorten life expectancy by more than 20 years, and dementia is one of the leading causes of death for these people.

For early-onset dementia, there was a significant gender split.  While the overall majority of dementia patients were women, almost two-thirds of all early-onset dementia patients (64.9%) were men.

Alcohol use disorders were also associated with all other independent risk factors for dementia onset, such as tobacco smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, lower education, depression, and hearing loss, among modifiable risk factors. It suggests that alcohol use disorders may contribute in many ways to the risk of dementia.

“As a geriatric psychiatrist, I frequently see the effects of alcohol use disorder on dementia, when unfortunately alcohol treatment interventions may be too late to improve cognition,” says CAMH Vice-President of Research Dr. Bruce Pollock. “Screening for and reduction of problem drinking, and treatment for alcohol use disorders need to start much earlier in primary care.” The authors also noted that only the most severe cases of alcohol use disorder – ones involving hospitalization – were included in the study.  This could mean that, because of ongoing stigma regarding the reporting of alcohol-use disorders, the association between chronic heavy drinking and dementia may be even stronger.

This study received no funding. It was conducted by researchers from Translational Health Economics Network (THEN); UMR 1137 INSERM–Université Paris Diderot, Sorbonne Paris Cité; Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, University of Toronto; INSERM, University of Bordeaux, Centre INSERM U1219-Bordeaux Population Health, ISPED-Bordeaux School of Public Health.

The full text of The Lancet Public Health study can be found here:

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada’s largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, as well as one of the world’s leading research centres in its field. CAMH combines clinical care, research, education, policy development and health promotion to help transform the lives of people affected by mental health and addiction issues. CAMH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, and is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre.

For more information, please follow @CAMHnews and @CAMHResearch on Twitter.

SOURCE Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Better safe than sorry: travel tips for spring breakers

By Aislinn May, CBC News

As reading week gets underway this week for many Ontario universities, lots of people are headed off on vacation, but as travellers prepare for their holidays the Canadian government is reminding people to take the right precautions.

Global Affairs Canada offers consular services, which helps travellers when they get into trouble abroad.

It sees around 200,000 cases every year said Omar Alghabra, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs specializing in consular affairs.

“Obviously they vary in nature, but what that tells us is that there are a lot of people that need assistance at times when they are abroad,” said Alghabra.

Alghabra said that people often hear stories of travel incidents but they don’t think it’ll happen to them.

He said two of the biggest problems for travellers are stolen, damaged or lost passports, and medical emergencies.

Alghabra said that many people think their provincial healthcare will cover their medical needs while travelling. In fact the provincial coverage is limited and travellers could be left with a hefty bill if they don’t have traveller’s insurance.

According to the OHIP website, Ontario travellers will be covered up to $50 a day for outpatient services and up to $400 a day for inpatient services– this includes operations or intensive care.

Alghabra stressed the importance of travel insurance.

“They may think that they are different than other Canadians who end up getting into trouble but one day, God forbid, they might find themselves in a difficult situation and it’s much better to be prepared than to be surprised,” he said.

When the Government can and cannot help

Depending on the situation, the Canadian government might not be able to help.

” [Travellers] may think that if they’re ever in trouble Canada can get them out of trouble immediately, but that is unfortunately not always the case,” said Alghabra.

According to a Global Affairs pamphlet, Canadian Government officials can help travellers with:

  • Legal resources (including information for local police)
  • Replace a lost, stolen or expired passport
  • Lists of medical centres nearby, and hospitals in the area
  • Contact family or friends on your behalf (with permission)
  • Help in case of a death abroad
  • Advocate on the behalf of  travellers with the host government and refer Canadians to consulates nearby.

The government cannot offer legal advice, provide lawyers, cover health expenses, perform investigations into crimes or get travellers out of jail.

Alghabra said it’s important for travellers to educate themselves about the local laws and customs before their trip.

Alternative Spring Break

This week students from Western University and Carleton University will be heading off on trips for a program called Alternative Spring Break, which offer volunteer opportunities instead of partying.

This year some of the destinations include Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala and Peru. There are also trips offered within Canada.

Rick Ezekiel is Western’s Interim Senior Director for Student Experience and helps organize the Alternative Spring Break trip at the university.

He said although the trips are very organized, there have been instances where student have lost their passports or had a medical emergency.  He added students are not travelling alone, so they can easily get help or find a consulate if needed.

Students are advised to keep their personal belongings like passports, visas, and other important documents in secure place. Travel insurance, including medical coverage, is included in the trips fees for students at both Carleton University and  Western University.

Organizers for both trips also check the government’s travel advisory website for updates on their destinations.

For all travellers who do find themselves in trouble the government has emergency contact information. Other travel tips include checking travel advisories , and downloading the Smart Travel App for up-to-date travel advice and advisories.

Supreme Court ruling affirms injured workers’ rights on the job


Employers have a human rights obligation to reasonably accommodate injured employees after an accident, the Supreme Court has ruled in a decision that could have significant implications across the country — particularly for migrant and temporary agency workers.

The case was fought by special needs educator Alain Caron after being told by his employer there was no suitable alternative work available after an injury prevented him from returning to his previous role.

As a result, the Quebec compensation board said his rehabilitation would have to take place “elsewhere,” which for the board and Caron’s employer was the extent of their obligation under the law.

But Caron successfully argued to the Supreme Court his employer could find him a job compatible with his elbow injury — and that it had a duty to do so under Quebec human rights legislation that requires employers to reasonably accommodate disabilities.

The court’s decision could have significant implications on injured workers across Canada, setting a higher standard for the lengths employers must go to find a suitable role for injured employees after a workplace accident.

Ontario employers already have a duty under the Ontario Human Rights Code to accommodate injured workers, but Maryth Yachnin, a lawyer with the Industrial Accident Victims’ Group of Ontario, says the ruling will still have an impact.

“We expect that this is going to make a pretty significant difference in the WSIB’s day-to-day approach on return to work,” said Yachnin of Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. “It means they have to require employers to show that they attempted to meet (accommodation) obligations.”

WSIB spokesperson Christine Arnott said the Human Rights Code was already “factored into our policies and decisions.”

“We’re here to help people return to health and return to work,” she said.

While all Ontario employers have a duty to co-operate with return-to-work efforts, only workplaces with more than 20 employees have an obligation to re-employ workers after an accident. The worker must also have been continuously employed there for at least a year before their injury.

Yachnin said migrant and temp workers were most likely to benefit from a more rigorous application of the duty-to-accommodate principle, because they are often immediately terminated or repatriated after an injury.

“Migrant workers never get the protection because they are never employed for one continuous year. Temp workers, same thing” said Yachnin.

“They’ve got no realistic forum for the defence of their human rights except through WSIB,” she added.

Between 2004 and 2014, more than 780 migrant workers in Ontario were medically repatriated back to their home countries after injuries — nearly all of them against their will, according to a study for the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Hamilton’s Karl Crevar, who has been an advocate for injured workers since a workplace accident in 1987, served as an intervener in the Caron case.

“There is some movement in Ontario, but it’s far, far short. The challenges are still there,” he told the Star. “The fact is many workers who have permanent impairments are not returning to work.”

A 2015 study conducted by professors at McMaster and Trent universities looking at injured workers with permanent impairments in Ontario found that 46 per cent were living on the poverty line five years after their accident.

The WSIB does have the power to issue penalties to employers who refuse to comply with their obligations to help injured employees get back on the job. The Star requested statistics on how many times that power has been exercised, but has not yet received a response.

In its decision, the Supreme Court said the duty to accommodate did not require employers to make a “new position from scratch for a disabled worker.”

“Rather, it means that when an employer is looking at available positions, the employer is required to consider whether it has any suitable employment as defined by (workers’ compensation legislation), and also what its obligations under the Charter require with respect to flexibility in work standards.”

Crevar said when employers argue that accommodating a worker after an injury will cause “undue hardship,” the burden falls to the worker to appeal the decision — a financially and emotionally draining process.

“If some cases have to go to the Supreme Court to get a final decision, that’s outrageous,” he said.

“That takes time. And time hurts people”

Source: The Star

Insurer seeking $10 million back from diocese that knew about predator priest


One of Canada’s largest liability insurance companies wants the Roman Catholic diocese of London, Ont., to return $10 million paid to the diocese for settlements to victims sexually abused by priests.

AXA Insurance, now owned by Intact Financial Corp., accuses the diocese of hiding pedophile priests by moving them to different parishes or duties for decades, thereby misleading the insurance company and exposing it to greater financial risk.

In documents filed with Superior Court in London, the company cites the cases of five notorious offenders, including serial predators Charles Sylvestre and John Harper, for sexual assaults against children and teens from the 1960s to the 1970s.

“The Diocese of London, consistent with the policies and practices of the Roman Catholic church more broadly, engaged in a practice of concealing reports of child sexual abuse by members of the diocese’s clergy, and then assigning the priests in question to different parishes in the Diocese, thereby providing the priests with further opportunity to commit sexual assaults upon children within the new parish,” AXA court documents allege.

In dispute is an insurance policy that the diocese says covered it from 1963 to 1971. AXA questions whether the policy ever existed. At the time, AXA’s predecessor insured nine other dioceses in Ontario.

And if the London policy did exist, the company argues it was made void by the diocese’s failure to disclose abuse committed by its priests before the policy was issued and renewed.

If the diocese had disclosed the information, AXA says it would have refused to provide or renew a policy, would have written in exclusions, or would have increased premiums because “this information dramatically affected the risk.”

The diocese claims its insurance policy is valid and accuses AXA of acting in “bad faith.”

The diocese initiated the legal battle in 2008 after AXA refused to pay two sexual abuse settlement claims totalling about $900,000. The diocese is suing AXA for $2 million for breach of contract, according to its statement of claim.

AXA pushed back hard, filing a counterclaim demanding the return of the $10 million AXA and its predecessors paid the diocese for settlements and legal costs in 50 lawsuits brought by victims sexually assaulted during the disputed period.

AXA and the diocese declined requests for interviews. The allegations have not been proven in court.

The diocese insists the insurance policy covered employees who commit “assault and battery.” It also wants AXA to cover “future claims which counsel for the Diocese asserts are inevitable,” according to a 2016 court ruling that decided the dispute would be heard by judge only.

The decade-old legal battle is scheduled for trial in September.

The litigation is part of an emerging movement across North America that pits Roman Catholic dioceses against their insurers in multi-million-dollar civil actions regarding victim settlements. At least 10 dioceses in the U.S. have been embroiled in lawsuits with insurance companies that won’t pay.

In Canada, the dioceses of Moncton, Bathurst, N.B., Ottawa and Sault Ste. Marie have all gone to court against insurance companies who refuse to cover millions of dollars in payments made to victims abused by priests. In October 2016, Bathurst lost its legal attempt to recoup $3.3 million from its former insurer.

Dioceses have slashed staff and sold properties to pay for the settlements.

Massimo Faggioli, a professor of Catholic church history at Pennsylvania’s Villanova University, says lawsuits from victims and insurance companies have created a “perfect storm” for dioceses already downsizing due to fewer worshipers.

“It’s a double challenge that’s consuming a lot of the energy of a lot of bishops,” Faggioli says in a phone interview. “The Catholic church will have to get rid of assets much more rapidly than it thought.”

Attempts to slow the downsizing by sheltering assets or spending large amounts on legal battles further taint a public image battered by the sex abuse scandals, Faggioli adds.

In Ontario, AXA’s predecessor, a company named Great American, began its legal challenge of dioceses in 2000, when it refused to cover the diocese of Sault Ste. Marie for sexual assaults committed by one of its priests. The Court of Appeal for Ontario eventually upheld a lower-court decision ordering Great American to pay up.

Great American, and later AXA, then began paying out for other dioceses it insured in Ontario, “including the Diocese of London, who claimed to be insured under an identical policy,” according to the 2016 Superior Court ruling against a jury trial. A complicating factor is that a copy of the disputed policy has not been found by either AXA or the diocese.


Al Simmons’ ‘Magic Workshop’ goes up in flames, irreplaceable props burn

By Elisha Dacey, CBC News

A prominent Manitoba children’s entertainer has lost his life’s work after his storage shed with all his props inside went up in flames a week ago.

Al Simmons, a prop-comedy children’s entertainer who has toured Canada and the U.S. extensively, lost most of his props after a fire in his “Magic Workshop,” said longtime friend Heather Bishop.

“I openly started to cry at what a loss that was,” after she heard the news, said Bishop.

“I immediately emailed Al, and said ‘Al, please, let me help. Let me do a GoFundMe campaign for you’ … it took me four or five days to bring him around to the idea that it’s OK to need help and please let us help you.

“Do you know how much joy it would give us knowing that we could help you when you have given us so much?”

Reached at his home, Simmons said he initially wasn’t going to tell anyone about the fire.

“I guess my worry is that my function on this earth, I believe that I’ve been put here to make people laugh. I don’t want to step on stage and have people feel sorry for me.

“I want people to realize that I’m not giving up. I’m going to be back, I’m going to keep going. There’s no stopping me.”

The props Simmons uses in his shows are entirely of his own creation and are made from recycled parts. They have taken him a lifetime to create and simply can’t be immediately replaced, Bishop said.

“I’ve lost priceless items that in no way I can rebuild. My upright, Bb, 5-bell, 12-valve baritone simbonium, which breaks my heart to even say that.”

The fundraiser will help where insurance won’t, said Bishop.

“I set a low [fundraising] goal of $20,000, I’m hoping to double that. The problem is that his creations are made out of recycled, reused old stuff that takes days, weeks, years to find, collect … There’s no way in the world insurance is covering any of his inventions.”

While the money won’t immediately replace Simmons’ props, Bishop is hopeful the money will give him the means and the time to rebuild some of his props for upcoming shows.

‘There’s no way in the world insurance is covering any of his inventions.’– Heather Bishop

“Nobody in the world makes such genius props as Al. He’s a unique Canadian treasure in that way … his inventions are beyond description. Each one of them … makes you laugh, makes you double over.”

A day after the fire, Simmons had a benefit show and said he and his wife Barbara stayed up late putting together a routine for the show. As more shows come up, more props will be rebuilt or new ones will be born, he said.

“I’ve always changed my show. This is an abrupt change.”

Bishop said she didn’t know how the fire started. “I do know he was able to run in and try to save a couple of things. He told me that he had managed to get Old Spoke, his wonderful bicycle, out of there. It’s highly damaged but knowing Al, he’ll probably be able to bring it back to life.”

Simmons confirmed Old Spoke will ride again. “It’s just in a little bit rough shape that I need to tweak.”

As for the fire, Simmons said the fire department told him it was likely an electrical problem. The storage shed is completely gone, he added.

Simmons is a Juno-award-winning entertainer, best known for his album Celery Stalks at Midnight and illustrated book Counting Feathers.

The Juno Simmons won survived, he added, noting he had lent it to a friend.

“We’re OK. No one got hurt, and mentally I’m OK.”

As of publishing, Bishop’s GoFundMe campaign had reached more than $8,000, only hours after it was posted.

Comox, B.C., native scores 95.80 on her 2nd run

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