2 out of 3 long-term care residents have dementia, or severe cognitive impairment (Ontario Long Term Care Association, 2016). Dementia management can be complex, multi-faceted and requires individualized approaches. As such, caring for people with dementia can be incredibly challenging.
Despite concerted efforts across the healthcare industry to pool clinical knowledge around dementia care best practices, there are gaps in translating these to the point of care. This challenge is exacerbated in dementia care by various societal stigmas, and lack of support for mental health conditions in general.
To address this, our team has partnered with the Ontario Long Term Care Association (OLTCA), the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) and AdvantAge Ontario on a program to develop and implement Clinical Support Tools (CSTs) in long term care homes. These tools aim to improve care standardization and quality across the province of Ontario. To further strengthen these tools, our Clinical Research and Development team recently hosted a dementia care workshop and follow-up teleconference, collaborating with local clinicians and leaders in long-term care.
The goal of both the workshop and teleconference was to connect with our network, and open a dialogue to address some current realities and research-to-practice gaps that exist in dementia care. The objective was also to discuss dementia-specific concerns that arise 24-28 hours after admission, and brainstorm ideas on how technology/our CSTs can be used to bridge these gaps and improve dementia care for residents.
The feedback and discussion amongst our clinician attendees was quite detailed, and a few central needs and suggestions emerged:
- Clear documentation tools that incorporate different assessments and allow for interprofessional collaboration and access to patient info.
- A patient and family-centric approach to dementia care, with personalized information about patient preferences, managing triggers, behaviour and de-escalation strategies.
- Family-focused education and support, which is highly important and often underutilized in long-term care.
- Different ways that technology can help care providers fully utilize the information we have to improve patient care.
Our Clinical Research and Development team has gathered the vital feedback from the workshop and teleconference, and is looking forward to incorporating into our Dementia CST, and into other tools such as Order Sets, eReferrals, Progress Notes, and Virtual Care, all of which are used by clinicians across the continuum of care. It was a productive and meaningful discussion, and we’d like to thank our workshop attendees for their useful feedback and insights. These will inform the clinical content we develop and increase our appreciation of the clinical challenges of dementia.