MORE than 20,000 people in the Fraser Health region live with dementia and that number is expected to rise by more than 70 per cent over the next decade. As a result, Fraser Health is enhancing the way they care for people with dementia in our communities. This new approach will streamline timely diagnosis and access to community resources for people with dementia, strengthen partnerships between specialists and primary care providers and better support the South Asian community.
“Learning you or a loved one has dementia can leave people feeling disconnected and unsure of where to turn,” said Minister of Health Adrian Dix. “Fraser Health’s new approach to caring for people with early stage dementia recognizes the need for a support network that helps seniors and their caregivers feel socially and culturally connected and empower them to move forward with life.”
Fraser Health developed the enhanced approach because evidence suggests that dementia, especially in its early stages, remains under-detected, under-diagnosed, under-disclosed, and under-treated.
Over the next year, Fraser Health will pilot the following various new initiatives in the communities of Surrey-North Delta, White Rock-South Surrey, and Langley:
- The creation of a new inter-professional dementia pathway guide that will simplify the process for family physicians or nurse practitioners to diagnose and provide management to a person in the early stages of dementia. By streamlining the process, a person living with dementia will be more likely to get the treatment and support they need early which helps manage the disease and maintain a good quality of life.
- A new mentoring program that partners dementia specialists with primary care providers to better equip providers to diagnose and treat dementia in its early stages. This will enhance providers’ knowledge and skills, strengthen relationships within the care team, and spread familiarity with dementia resources at the community level.
- Over the next five months, Fraser Health will launch a series of dementia education presentations in Surrey temples and gurdwaras, as well as in community centres in partnership with iCON (InterCultural Online Health Network), that will focus on awareness of dementia, recognizing early signs, reducing risk, talking to your family physician, and accessing community resources.
In addition, across the region Fraser Health will:
- Work with the Alzheimer Society of B.C. to implement a one-year pilot Punjabi-speaking South Asian support and education coordinator for their existing First Link® Dementia Helpline. By calling the coordinator at 604-449-5003 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday to Friday, the South Asian Dementia Helpline will provide culturally-sensitive information and language support to South Asian people living with dementia and their families.
“Our new approach to caring for people with early stage dementia in the community unites many partners to enable a person to obtain an earlier diagnosis and timely management of dementia,” said Dr. Leena Jain, Fraser Health geriatrician and co-lead of the new initiatives. “In addition, we know there are more than 200,000 people of South Asian descent in our region and, as with all health care concerns, it is important to provide patient-centred education about dementia in a culturally-sensitive way that addresses any potential misconceptions and barriers.”
Funding for the enhanced approach to care for early stage dementia is being provided by the BC Specialist Services Committee, one of four joint collaborative committees representing a partnership between the Doctors of BC and the Ministry of Health. This approach was developed with input from various stakeholders such as dementia specialists, primary health care providers and other clinicians, Fraser Health, the Alzheimer Society of B.C., local Divisions of Family Practice, and community members including people living with dementia and caregivers.
“By strengthening partnerships between physicians and other health care providers, we hope that diagnoses and treatments for people living with dementia, as well as support for their families, will be more robust and will happen more quickly and efficiently,” said Dr. Trina Larsen Soles, President of Doctors of BC. “With everyone working together, patients living with dementia will be able to maintain, if not improve, their quality of life.”
“The Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s ultimate vision is for a world without Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. Our more immediate vision is for a world where people living with dementia, their caregivers and their families are welcomed and supported – a truly dementia-friendly society,” says Maria Howard, CEO of the Alzheimer Society of B.C. “Ensuring that people affected by the disease have access to support that takes into consideration their language and cultural practice is paramount to helping to make that immediate vision a reality.”
For information about symptoms and access to services for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and their families, please visit Fraser Health’s website hub here.