Improved access to accurate and timely diagnosis
The 2011 World Alzheimer Report estimates that in high-income countries such as Canada, only 20-50% of dementia cases are recognized and documented in primary care.
Studies of family caregiver’s experiences in obtaining a diagnosis reveal delays between initial recognition of symptoms and diagnosis ranging from 24 to 30 months. And caregivers of rural patients report significantly more barriers to obtaining a diagnosis than urban caregivers.
Saskatchewan has only one Royal College Certified Geriatrician and inter-professional diagnostic teams are available in just one health region.
Crisis and hospitalizations take place because people seek help too late in the disease process. Early diagnosis and intervention help people with dementia and their families to benefit from drug treatment, education and life planning so they can manage the disease and have a better quality of life.
- Education for health care professionals on diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias
- The creation of networks of inter-professional diagnostic teams to improve early-stage diagnosis
Improved support for families and easing of the financial burden on caregivers
Receiving a diagnosis of dementia is devastating and navigating the complex health care system can be overwhelming. Yet most often, people receiving the diagnosis and their families are sent home with minimal information and no supports, and are left to face the challenges of the dementia journey alone.
Many families are not told about the programs and services available at the Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan or through the health care system.
Families with no information about dementia, or support when problems arise, are vulnerable to the challenges of this disease. Research indicates that families make more appropriate use of formal health services when their education and support needs are met.
New programs and services are required for emerging groups such as younger people with dementia whose interests, abilities and needs are not the same as those of the more frail elderly and whose families remain in the workforce.
Informal caregivers provide about 80% of all care for people with long-term health problems. Today, family and friends spend 9 million unpaid hours caring for people with dementia. By 2038 this will increase to over 30 million hours.
Studies indicate that caregivers who receive counselling and support delay placing their family member in long-term care an average of 557 days compared to caregivers who do not receive the intervention.
Supporting a caregiver to keep their family member at home for one year saves the health care system nearly $75,000 per year in total health care costs.
Informal caregiver support programs would significantly reduce the number of dementia patients residing in long-term care over the next 30 years, saving Saskatchewan over $440.8 million dollars.
- Increased funding to extend the First Link® Program to rural areas of the province
- Greater accessibility to vital supports, such as respite care and home care
- A provincial primary care tax credit and the province working with the Federal Government to develop Employment Insurance programs for family caregivers
Last Updated: 12/06/11