About the Dementia Champions

Dementia refers to a cluster of disorders that affect the brain, are progressive, and cause cognitive impairment as one of the primary symptoms.  Persons with dementia require access to formal healthcare services to assess, treat, and manage their complex situations, and are more likely to be admitted to hospital than people without dementia.  Acute care of persons with dementia is challenging for the patients themselves, their families, and healthcare providers, who report inadequate knowledge and education about how to care for patients who have dementia.  Persons with dementia requiring care often have unique needs and considerations that may not be related to their acute medical issue, yet need to be taken into account during treatment.  


Persons with dementia and carers have described many challenges they face in acute care settings, including lack of privacy and personal space, noise, difficulty maintaining standards of personal care, loss of independence, difficulty wayfinding, boredom and lack of meaningful activities, unmet psychological and physical needs, and difficulties in communication with health care providers.  Additionally, persons with dementia may experience a number of negative consequences when in acute care settings, including increased risk of death, longer hospital stays, further functional decline, development of a delirium, and increased potential for new discharge to a long-term care setting instead of returning home. 


To address the issues with acute care provision to persons living with dementia, the Scottish government commissioned the Scottish National Dementia Champions Programme in 2011.  This programme aims to equip acute health care professionals with the values, knowledge, and skills needed to provide high quality acute care to persons with dementia, and support professionals to make concrete changes that will improve their acute care settings.  Since Canada does not have any dementia care education programs for acute health care professionals (e.g., registered nurses, social workers, physical therapists, etc.) the purpose of our work is to adapt the Scottish programme for use in Canada. 


Adaptation of the Scottish programme to the Canadian context is currently underway.  A two day planning meeting was held in February 2020 that brought together experts (a person living with dementia and their carer, researchers, health care providers, and community stakeholders) in dementia care.  Together, this group identified priorities for acute care provider education on dementia in Canada, and brainstormed how the Scottish programme could be adapted to best address these priorities. Based on these meetings, an adapted Canadian version of the Dementia Champions Programme is under development. 


This work is the foundation for a grant submission for the funding needed to pilot the adapted programme in Canada.  The provision of comprehensive dementia care education to acute care professionals will increase their capacity to provide quality care to persons with dementia, which is one of the priorities identified in Canada’s National Dementia Strategy.  This will ultimately improve acute care settings for persons with dementia and carers, for a positive impact on their health and wellness.