Changing how to care for those whose minds have changed

As research continues around the globe to find a cure for dementia, it is imperative that we do everything we can to support those currently living with dementia. At the Research Institute for Aging our investment in research and a dedicated program improves the lives of those who live with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Here are a few ways we’re making that happen.

Dr. Linda Lee, Schlegel Chair in Primary Care for Elders

Early diagnosis, better outcomes

Over 65 per cent of those living in the community with dementia are undiagnosed and untreated. Evidence shows that delays in dementia diagnosis and intervention leads to worse health outcomes for both patients and caregivers.

So, in 2006, Dr. Linda Lee developed an interprofessional Memory Clinic for diagnosing and managing dementia – now called the Multispecialty Interprofessional Team (MINT). In this model a family physician, nurse and other healthcare providers – including pharmacists and social service workers — work together with the patient and caregiver to conduct a full assessment and develop a treatment plan for individuals experiencing memory loss. The MINT Memory Clinics are located within the community and patients are referred by their family physician.

There are now 110 clinics province-wide. By providing patients and caregivers with early intervention for dementia, the clinics avert crisis events that lead to frequent emergency room visits, hospitalizations and transition to long-term care.


Carrie McAiney, Schlegel Research Chair in Dementia and Scientific Director, Murray Alzheimer Research and Education Program (MAREP)

Dedicated care

Professor Carrie McAiney researches how to enhance care and support for persons living with dementia and their family members, as well as improving the quality of work life for staff involved in their care.

She and her team are working with the developers of a program called Dedicated Support to trial it in Canada. This program has shown promising effects on residents living with dementia in long-term care, their families and the staff who care for them. Dedicated support means residents are cared for by the same group of staff rather than a model where staff regularly rotate to a different group of residents.

Initial research on Dedicated Support has found:

  • lower rates of pressure ulcers, infections and falls among residents
  • higher satisfaction with care among family members
  • higher job satisfaction among staff

As scientific director for MAREP, McAiney is leading a program that has been improving dementia care education and practice in Canada and around the world for over 25 years. One of the core products to come out of MAREP are a series of guides to help people living with dementia enhance their personal well-being and navigate daily challenges. The series is called “By Us For Us” and is written by people living with dementia for people living with dementia.

McAiney was also part of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ expert panel that contributed to the recently released national dementia strategy.


Dr. Allen Power, Schlegel Chair in Aging and Dementia Innovation

Reducing the use of antipsychotic drugs through well-being

Dr. Allen Power is looking for alternate, drug-free ways to address the personal expressions experienced by approximately 90% of people living with dementia.

Personal expressions are responses through actions or words to something in a person’s social or physical environment – things like restlessness, agitation, pacing and wandering. Personal expressions may or may not be distressing to the person with dementia, but can be very distressing for family members and staff.

Pharmacological interventions, specifically antipsychotics, are often used to address them but research has shown they are often over-prescribed. As well, those living with dementia who take antipsychotics may be at higher risk for strokes and death.

Power has developed a well-being framework where staff learn to address core human needs like identity, security, meaning and joy instead of prescribing drugs to people whose personal expressions are interfering with their daily lives. Anecdotal feedback on this approach suggests it may enhance the well-being of residents and reduce antipsychotic medications. Based on this, Power’s well-being framework is currently being evaluated by researchers at the RIA.

If you would like to know how else we’re improving the lives of those who live with dementia, contact us at info@the-ria.ca.