July 16th, 2018

Alberta announces provincial dementia strategy

By Gillian Slade on December 20, 2017.


A provincial dementia strategy was announced by Minister of Health Sarah Hoffman Tuesday.

The strategy and action plan is “framed around four key outcomes,” including understanding the impact of dementia and working toward optimal brain health, support for caregivers and those living with dementia, timely recognition, diagnosis and clinical management and timely access to integrated and high-quality dementia care services.

“We’re working to make life better for families while laying the groundwork for the future,” said Hoffman. “This plan offers a targeted and strategic approach that will lead to quality care, better brain health and stronger community supports for years to come.”

The plan calls for improvements such as more rural specialist consultations, improved mental health supports and better transitions for those moving between different care settings.

Roger Marple, a resident of Medicine Hat living with dementia, says a provincial dementia strategy indicates a willingness to work with stakeholders to support those with dementia and their loved ones.

Marple is particularly interested in the “First Link” program, a patient-centered approach for the care of people with dementia, offered by the Alzheimer Society of Alberta and Northwest Territories.

“I would love to see that program blossom and grow as time goes on,” said Marple.

Michele Mulder, CEO Alzheimer Society of Alberta and Northwest Territories, said her organization appreciates the government’s recognition and investment in First Link helping to ensure people living with dementia and their families and care partners have appropriate support programs.

The government’s press release says $1.95 million for First Link is already underway.

A total of $4.1 million is already being spent on a “seniors health strategic clinical network,” which includes pilot programs that integrate exercise, art and music in dementia care. This program also includes the “appropriate use of antipsychotics program”.

Antipsychotic medication may be appropriate when someone with dementia is first admitted to hospital, and is perhaps anxious in unfamiliar surroundings, but it should then be reduced, said Dr. Jim Silvius, a gerontologist and the provincial medical director, community, seniors and addiction and mental health for Alberta Health Services.

In 2016, more than 42,000 Albertans were diagnosed with dementia. Once you are more than 65 years-old the risk of developing dementia doubles with every five years of aging.


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