What is Dementia?
Dementia is a progressive disease, meaning that symptoms inevitably worsen with time. These symptoms can include memory loss, difficulty processing thought, trouble problem-solving and language, and even changes in mood or behaviour. Dementia is the leading cause of disability among Canadians over the age of 65. The number of Canadians living with dementia is currently around 564,000, with projections indicating that this number will double every 15 to 20 years (Wong, Gilmour, & Ramage-Morin, 2016). This increase of an aging demographic underscores the need for dementia-focused support systems.
What is a Dementia-Inclusive Community?
A dementia-inclusive community is one that is committed to working together to promote a better understanding of dementia, reduce stigma, raise public awareness and to facilitate social inclusion and participation within a community. By fostering a dementia-inclusive environment, retirement communities can support their residents to age in a place they are comfortable and call home.
“Dementia stigma is pervasive and affects the quality of life of people with dementia and their families. We can’t cure dementia yet, but we can all cure stigma.”
– Scotland Alzheimer’s Society
ORCA’s Dementia-Inclusive Initiative
As more Canadians are choosing to spend their later years living in retirement communities, it is important that these residences are able to adapt to the diverse needs of both current and future residents. ORCA is committed to the importance of providing supportive and safe environments for residents living with varying levels of cognitive abilities. As an association, we recognize that there is a need for more resources to foster dementia inclusivity, reduce stigmas, and raise awareness for staff, residents and families living in retirement communities; this need was the impetus for the development of ORCA’s Dementia-Inclusive Initiative.
ORCA’s Dementia-Inclusive Initiative began in the fall with the development of a task force led by Dr. Laura Booi. Supported by funding from the Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation and sponsored by PointClickCare, ORCA became one of the first organizations in the retirement community sector to join this international movement.
The following spring, ORCA conducted background work, including a member survey on the level of dementia stigma found within retirement communities. Later in the fall, the Association visited ten retirement communities across the province to collect information from over 80 respondents to help shape some of the training content.
With the help of subject matter experts and ORCA’s Dementia Task Force, resources were developed to pilot the initiative, including educational tutorials for retirement community operators and staff. Additional resources developed included:
- The “I’m Olive” video (download here), depicting a day in the life of a retirement community resident living well with dementia;
- Two e-learning modules to educate frontline staff: “About Dementia Inclusivity” and “Breaking Barriers”;
- A Dementia-Inclusive Initiative Guide providing insight into stigma surrounding dementia, frameworks for understanding it, and how to support residents living with dementia; and
- A Dementia-Inclusive Reflection Checklist, designed to initiate discussions on whether current practices and services in a retirement community reflect an environment that is dementia-inclusive.
The pilot project saw participation by 169 staff from 30 retirement communities in Ontario, and two additional communities outside of the province. Based on the results of this pilot project, ORCA will continue to evolve the initiative in all retirement communities in Ontario and nationally.
On March 20, ORCA’s Dementia-Inclusive Initiative resources were launched on the Learning Centre for Senior Living with webinars to walk members through the educational materials and how to use them.
Over 1,300 managers and frontline retirement community staff have completed the online training to date! Additional resources were developed, including:
- The “I’m Olive” video with French (view here) and English subtitles (view here)
- Two new tutorials are under development to expand staff training offerings