Dementia is a complex, degenerative condition that erodes an individual’s cognitive abilities, stealing a person’s memories, talents and even their identities. Today, close to 27,000 British Columbians between the ages of 65 and 84 live with some form of dementia, with an additional almost 25,000 over the age of 85 affected – numbers that are expected to continue increasing.
In our new policy update, Improving the Lived Experience of People with Dementia, Doctors of BC expands on our earlier commitments and calls to action to reduce the stigma surrounding dementia and improve the quality of life for all British Columbians living with this disease by offering four new areas of opportunity:
Prevention activities are the most effective way to reduce the impact of dementia on individuals, caregivers, and the health system. Lifestyle behaviours that include aerobic exercise, mental activity (including socializing), and cardiovascular risk factor control will have the greatest impact in terms of promoting healthy aging and preventing or delaying the onset of dementia.
Because dementia is a progressive disease, many patients struggle with continuous changes to their cognitive capacity that leaves them incapable of meeting their own needs or expressing themselves to their caregivers. This can result in physical discomfort, social isolation, and other challenges contributing to a lower quality of life. Education and training opportunities should be made available to physicians, allied health professionals, and staff to provide the best care possible. Research also shows that education on recognizing and addressing symptoms of dementia can reduce caregiver distress.
Dementia patients in long-term care facilities depend on properly trained staff to provide a supportive environment where they can continue to live meaningful lives. To that end we support government’s 2018 commitment to meet the provincial guideline of 3.36 hours a day of individual resident care. In addition, long-term care facilities should ensure staffing includes an appropriate mix of specialist physicians and nurses to address all of a dementia patient’s complex needs, including mental health.
The life expectancy for people with dementia is highly variable. A palliative care approach can help people diagnosed with dementia maintain a higher quality of life by identifying and treating physical, psychosocial, and spiritual challenges as soon as they arise.
Doctors of BC is committed to continuing to work with dementia patients, caregivers, government, the Office of the Seniors Advocate, and other health care providers to address continuing and emerging challenges to improve the lives of people living with dementia.
This policy update builds upon our 2004 dementia policy paper, Building Bridges: A Call for a Coordinated Dementia Strategy in BC.