U of S researcher working to improve rural and remote dementia care

SASKATOON - New funding of $2.3 million will enable U of S researcher Debra Morgan and her team to further their work to improve dementia care in rural and remote communities.

An estimated 47 million people across the globe live with dementia, and in rural or remote communities primary health care (PHC) providers bear most of the responsibility for diagnosis and management with few dementia-specific resources.

“Rural healthcare providers face a lot of challenges in diagnosing dementia,” said Morgan. “We’re trying to find out how to provide them with education and decision support tools they need to increase their capacity to diagnose and manage dementia, and find ways to provide remote support from specialists at a distance.”

It is a big problem, one that Morgan, professor and chair of Rural Health Delivery at the Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture (CCHSA), is hoping to address with the Rural Dementia Action Research (RaDAR) PHC Toolkit. The seven-year Foundation Grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research will go towards creating, implementing and evaluating best practices for delivering comprehensive care for people with dementia in rural and remote settings. Given the tremendous diversity across rural settings and PHC teams, a “one size fits all” won’t work. The RaDAR Toolkit will provide an inventory of tested strategies that can be adapted, scaled up, and sustained across diverse, low-resource rural settings both nationally and internationally.

The toolkit will be based on findings from three inter-related streams of research led by different team members: interdisciplinary team care (Morgan), remote specialist-to-provider support (Megan O’Connell, a clinical psychologist in the Rural and Remote Memory Clinic and associate professor of psychology at the U of S), and decision support tools for providers (Julie Kosteniuk, a professional research associate at the CCHSA).

While there are principles of dementia care in PHC settings that have been shown to have better outcomes than usual care, they mostly come from research and programs in urban settings.

The ultimate goal is to create a toolkit of high-quality dementia care practices that can be tailored to different rural settings, with the goal of enhancing quality of life for dementia patients and their families. Improving access to appropriate care will help unburden the health care system by providing diagnosis and treatment close to home and can be adapted by health care systems both across the country and internationally.

“Rural regions have fewer resources, (but) they have proportionally more older people—and age is the main risk factor for dementia,” continued Morgan. “But there are fewer supports in rural and remote communities, specialists are not easily accessible, and physicians have less access to education to help them diagnose and manage.

“The lack of services, and that the services that are available are limited in quantity and appropriateness, are multiple reasons why we need this research. This program brings together experts from a broad range of disciplines, from Canada and internationally, to address this important issue.”


For more information or to arrange an interview with Debra Morgan, contact:

Kate Blau, Communications Specialist
College of Medicine
University of Saskatchewan

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