Prairie North Health Region and all of society are facing ever greater challenges in dealing with the rising tide of dementia and care of individuals suffering from the disease, according to a PNHR press release.
In an effort to better understand dementia and dementia care, as well as the ethical considerations around caring for individuals with dementia, PNRHA board members heard presentations at an April 27 regular board meeting from Beverly Greenwood, Provincial Northern Behaviour Management Consultant based in PNHR; Joanne Bracken, CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan; Joan Zimmer, PNHR Director of Continuing Care; and Jim Walls, PNHR Director of Social Work.
Greenwood explained many types and degrees of dementia exist and each individual is different in terms of his/her dementia. In PNHR, 70 per cent to nearly 100 per cent of residents in each of the 13 long-term care (LTC) homes have some level of cognitive impairment. She stressed staff need to know how to care for people with dementia and must know the person behind the dementia.
Bracken advised that Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia. In Saskatchewan, 10 new cases of dementia occur each day. Within a generation - by 2038 - that number will more than double to over 20 new cases per day. More than 17,000 Saskatchewan residents are currently living with dementia.
By 2038, the number will climb to over 28,000, equalling 2.3 per cent of the population. While the number of LTC beds is expected to grow across Canada, the system will still be short 157,000 beds by 2038.
More people with dementia are being and will continue to be cared for at home, usually by spouses or other family members. These caregivers need support too, said Bracken adding that a national dementia strategy is necessary to address the "rising tide."
Zimmer explained that with the aim to provide safe, quality care to all persons in PNHR long-term care facilities, the region has established a specialized Behaviour Management and Dementia Unit at Battlefords District Care Centre (BDCC). The program will assess, stabilize, and develop care plans for individuals who are deemed to require the specialized service. Once clients are stabilized and their condition improves, they will return to their home facility. The maximum length of stay on the unit is expected to be no more than six months. The unit consists of two wards accommodating a total of 29 clients. Renovations have been completed, specialized training is being provided to staff, and additional staff are being recruited.
Walls emphasized that the ethics of dementia care and the ethics of all care are no different. The question of ethics is: "all things considered, what is the right thing to do?" Everyone, including the dementia client, is a person with inherent rights. Walls said the health system has to build capacity to care for those with dementia wherever the clients are, not just in a single location. He added that staff need to be taught and supported in dementia care. The environment, he stressed, must be appropriate and safe.