U of S researchers, Health Quality Council release dementia report and recommendations

A report released today by the University of Saskatchewan-based Rural Dementia Action Research (RaDAR) Team and the Saskatchewan Health Quality Council (HQC) provides new information on the scope of dementia across the province and offers five recommendations for action.

By Jennifer Thoma
"This is the most comprehensive study of the scope of dementia and dementia care in Saskatchewan that has been undertaken to date," said Debra Morgan, a professor in the U of S College of Medicine who leads the RaDAR Team.

"Since age is the main risk factor associated with dementia, we can expect to see more people with dementia in the future as our population grows older. Having epidemiological data that are as current as possible is important, as the data can inform future decisions that affect individuals with dementia and their families living in every corner of this province."

The study looked at a 12-month period in 2012-2013. A total of 3,270 new cases of dementia were identified among adults aged 45 years and older in Saskatchewan during that period - or approximately seven in every 1,000 residents aged 45 years and older. In addition, the study found 28 of every 1,000 residents aged 45 years and older had been previously diagnosed or otherwise identified and were currently living with dementia—13,012 individuals.

The research also found gaps between actual and best practices in dementia care in Saskatchewan in several areas, including quality improvement in care services, family support, raising public awareness, timely diagnosis and staff training.

The new report, entitled "A Multi-Method Investigation of Dementia and Related Services in Saskatchewan: Final Report and Recommendations," is based on a three-part study. The study included a review of best practices in national dementia plans from nine countries; an environmental scan of dementia-related services and resources in the province; and an analysis of linked administrative health data by age group, sex, rural/urban residence, health region and database.

As part of the project, HQC accessed, linked and analyzed 10 administrative health care databases to help the RaDAR researchers determine the incidence and prevalence of dementia in Saskatchewan.

"HQC's expertise in working with administrative health care databases complemented the skills and knowledge of the U of S researchers," said Jacqueline Quail, a senior researcher at HQC. "High-quality administrative data are incredibly powerful tools to understand the health of a population. This data can help answer research questions that may lead to a better understanding of, and therefore improvement in the care of, certain diseases."

The report offers five recommendations for action to improve the quality of care in Saskatchewan and to better align dementia care in the province with best practices. The recommendations are:

• Include dementia in the provincial Chronic Disease Management Quality Improvement Program;
• track quality indicators of dementia care provincially and by health region, to ensure that individuals are properly assessed, diagnosed and managed within the health care system;
• improve and encourage access to timely and accurate diagnosis;
• ensure that individuals with dementia and their families are adequately supported; and
• revisit the Provincial Strategy for Alzheimer Disease and Related Dementias in Saskatchewan (released in 2004) and consider aligning with the proposed national strategy for Canada.

"This work is a two-phase study. The next phase of the research will look at patterns in health service use," said Julie Kosteniuk, a RaDAR Team member and professional research associate at the Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture at the U of S. "This research will serve as a baseline for future RaDAR-HQC studies."

The study was supported through a U of S Applied Chair in Health Services and Policy Research held by Morgan, and funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation, with in-kind support from HQC.

The full RaDAR-HQC research report, which includes summaries by health region, can be accessed online at www.cchsa-ccssma.usask.ca/ruraldementiacare.

The RaDAR Team is an interdisciplinary group of researchers from Ontario, Alberta and the United Kingdom based at the U of S. RaDAR's flagship project is the Rural and Remote Memory Clinic, which began as a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)-funded demonstration project. The clinical service component is now funded by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health. The Rural and Remote Memory Clinic focuses on diagnosing and managing atypical and complex cases of suspected dementia in patients living in rural and remote communities outside of Saskatoon and Regina.

HQC is the first agency of its kind in Canada. Created by government in 2002, the organization is committed to working with partners in the province's health system to make care better and safer for the people of Saskatchewan.

For more information, contact:
Debra Morgan, Professor
Director, Rural and Remote Memory Clinic
University of Saskatchewan

Julie Kosteniuk, Professional Research Associate
University of Saskatchewan

Jacqueline Quail, Senior Researcher
Saskatchewan Health Quality Council
306-668-8810 ext. 202