UNB Research

UNB researchers work to improve dementia care and support

Author: UNB Research

Posted on Mar 29, 2021

Category: Research , Partnerships

Photo (left to right): Dr. Shelley Doucet, Dr. Pamela Jarrett and Dr. Alison Luke.

Last month, we announced the five UNB projects funded by the Healthy Seniors Pilot Project (HSPP); since then, we've been working with the research teams to help tell their stories and share insight into their research.

Today, we feature Dr. Shelley Doucet, Dr. Pamela Jarrett and Dr. Alison Luke's work examining how primary care providers diagnose and support persons with dementia. The research project, Co-designing Dementia Care in New Brunswick: Building the Future Together, received $495,259 in HSPP funding.

Who are you?

Dr. Shelley Doucet:

I am the Jarislowsky Chair in Interprofessional Patient-Centred Care, Associate Professor in Nursing, and Director of the Centre for Research in Integrated Care at the University of New Brunswick. My research team develops programs that address the barriers and gaps in services identified through research, with the goal to promote collaborative patient-centred care that is accessible and meets patients’ needs.

My team and I use a patient-oriented research approach, which involves engaging patients and their caregivers as partners throughout the research process, identifying patient priorities and ultimately improving patient outcomes. My main areas of expertise are in interprofessional patient-centred care, patient navigation, integrated care and qualitative research.

Dr. Pamela Jarrett:

I am a geriatrician in Horizon Health Network in Saint John and an associate professor of medicine at Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick. I have cared for many people with dementia and their families throughout my career, during which I’ve held administrative, research and teaching roles. I continue to teach and participate in research pertaining to older adults, and my current research focus is on frailty, brain health, dementia and medication appropriateness.

Dr. Alison Luke:

I am a research associate at UNB’s Centre for Research in Integrated Care. I completed my PhD in sociology at the University of Waterloo in 2010, and was the Crawford/Jarislowsky Post-Doctoral Fellow in Health Policy from 2015-2018. Since graduating, I have worked and taught in the areas of sociology of health and interpersonal relations, specializing in the social determinants of health, access to healthcare, and social inequality. My main areas of expertise are patient engagement, patient navigation, models of integrated care, and qualitative research.

Our diverse local project team has over 30 members to support this province-wide, bilingual project, including researchers, clinicians, decision makers, patient partners and an expert steering committee. The range of team members across the province will ensure the feasibility, sustainability and scalability of this project.

What are you working on?

In this project, we’re seeking to improve health and social care providers’ knowledge of how to communicate a dementia diagnosis, and how to provide support in the 12 months following the diagnosis for persons with dementia and their care partners. In addition, we want to increase the awareness and use of existing services and supports for persons with dementia and their care partners.

This project involves a collaboration across five countries: Canada (with projects in New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec), Australia, the Netherlands, Poland and the United Kingdom. In each country, persons with dementia, care partners and health and social care providers are involved as members of our co-design teams. The co-design process involves working collaboratively with these stakeholder groups to ensure the results meet their needs and are usable.

With public awareness as one of our main goals, we are developing a website, resources and promotional activities, using insights from formative research with our target audiences and input from our co-design teams.

‘Formative research’ refers to the preliminary research that we do – surveys, interviews and focus groups, in this case – before we design and implement a program. It provides insight as to where the gaps in care are in the system and what approaches we need to use, what information we need to provide, to address them.

Together, we will use the resources we develop to launch a campaign called Forward with Dementia, with key messages and topics including ‘find your way forward with dementia’ and ‘your next steps start here.’

We anticipate that the project will enhance the knowledge and preparedness of health and social care providers. In turn, this will help ensure that people with dementia and their care partners are receiving the supports and levels of care they need. In addition, we hope to improve awareness of the services and supports available for people with or at risk of dementia and their care partners.

Sharing the results of our project will help other stakeholders implement similar projects in their region. Thus, this study provides an opportunity to share lessons learned and improve dementia care at a provincial, national and global level.

Why did you decide to work on this research?

Each hour, approximately nine people are diagnosed with dementia in Canada. In New Brunswick, there are 15,000 people living with dementia who have unique needs that change over time.

Our previous research highlights that persons living with dementia and their care partners often find dementia care services uncoordinated and difficult to navigate. Health and social care providers also face challenges as they diagnose and support their patients and families affected by dementia.

The overarching goal of our research centre at UNB is to improve the integration of care for individuals across the lifespan. Prior to taking on this research, most of our projects have focused on children and youth.

When approached by our decision maker partners and clinician lead, Dr. Pamela Jarrett, about the possibility of joining this newly launched international study, we jumped at the opportunity.

Aside from New Brunswick’s aging population, the province offers a number of unique opportunities which lend themselves well to this project. As Canada’s only bilingual province, New Brunswick provides our team with an opportunity to evaluate outcomes across linguistically diverse communities. Our province is also small, which means the team will be able to roll out and evaluate the awareness campaign across the entire province. Finally, with a large rural population, we will also be able to assess the role rural and urban geography plays in dementia diagnosis and care experiences.

This research is important to us personally, as well. As with many Canadians, we each know someone who has experienced the challenges of living with dementia. Our main goal is to help support people with dementia, and their care partners, to live well with it. We also know the challenges health and social care providers face when caring for this population and we want to build up the knowledge and preparedness of these care teams to ensure people living with dementia and their care partners receive the supports and levels of care they need.

More information:

Dr. Shelley Doucet | Dr. Alison Luke | Dr. Pamela Jarrett | Centre for Research in Integrative Care | Nursing and Health Sciences (Saint John) | Project page for the global COGNISANCE consortium

Research at UNB | Graduate Studies at UNB | Postdoctoral fellowships

Related Pages: Healthy Seniors Pilot Project: Five UNB projects receive funding