Dementia Strategy Seeks to Integrate Care

People living with dementia and their caregivers are asking for more support and a better-integrated health care system that is easier to navigate, to provide for the often complex needs of elderly adults with some form of cognitive impairment.   According to new research out of the University of Waterloo that has informed the Frail Senior Strategy in Ontario, Canada, more education and respite for caregivers, along with support for transitions into long-term care are needed for family caregivers. 

With a rapidly aging population, more family caregivers are shouldering the burden of caring for elderly relatives and many are struggling to juggle work, raising children and providing care for seniors.  Sandwiched between so many responsibilities and lacking the time for self-care, many informal caregivers suffer burnout.  

The new provincial strategy for frail seniors brings not only health care professionals and seniors to the table, but also the family caregivers who need support within the community and are asking for a more integrated system.   More day programs, overnight respite care, behavioral support, and teams to help caregivers with a transition into a long-term care or retirement facility are part of the plan; to be implemented over the next two years.  The person-centered strategy is hoped to provide better care for growing numbers of older adults living with dementia. 

In Canada, more than 400,000 older adults are currently living with dementia, and with 80,000 new cases diagnosed each year, the direct care costs are expected to rise from $15 billion to $153 billion annually by 2038, according to the Waterloo study.  More care partner support is needed for family and loved ones who often feel stressed and overwhelmed under the weight of caregiving for an elderly person with dementia.  And with more access to services, coordinated care, training for the dementia workforce, and greater awareness and dementia-friendly communities, the needs of seniors and their caregivers can be better met.