May 30, 2016
EDMONTON — Individuals and caregivers living with dementia, including people with Alzheimer’s disease, will benefit now that Alberta Health Services (AHS) has expanded its specialized dementia advice service through Health Link to include Edmonton and Calgary Zones.
By dialing 811 — any time, any day — callers will reach Health Link staff who can assess their needs and provide immediate advice for their health concerns. When needed, callers can also be referred to a specialized dementia nurse for additional support. The dementia advice service launched in North, Central and South Zones in September 2015.
Specialized dementia nurses can provide a more in-depth assessment to gain an understanding of each individual situation and provide personalized support and advice, as well as connect callers to available community services and supports.
“Providing funding for the development and expansion of dementia advice through Health Link was essential to meet the growing needs of Albertans touched by dementia and Alzheimer’s,” says Sarah Hoffman, Minister of Health. “Ensuring support is available 24/7 for 365 days a year, regardless of geography, is an important step in ensuring people with dementia and their families and caregivers have access to the care they need, when they need it.”
Currently, about 40,000 Albertans are living with dementia, a syndrome that affects their memory, thinking, orientation, judgment and ability to carry out daily activities.
The number of dementia cases is expected to more than double in Alberta as the baby boom generation moves into older age. By 2038, it is estimated that about one in 10 Albertans over the age of 65, and nearly half over age 90, will be living with dementia.
“Initially, the service was provided in the rural zones because we determined this was the greatest and most immediate area of need,” says Lara Osterreicher, Director of Operations for Health Link. “Typically, rural and remote areas don’t have access to the same level of services as our urban centres so we worked to get dementia advice to these areas first. We’re very pleased to have now expanded the service throughout Alberta.”
With support from Alberta Health, Health Link worked with AHS’ Seniors Health Strategic Clinical Network (SCN) to develop and launch the service.
“The progression of dementia is unpredictable and care needs can change rapidly,” says Scott Fielding, Senior Provincial Director, Strategic Clinical Networks. “Having access to services and supports at the right time can make the difference between a person being able to remain at home with loved ones or having to move to a higher level of care.”
By better supporting individuals and caregivers, the new dementia advice service also aims to reduce the number of emergency department visits for dementia-related concerns.
Since the service began in North, Central and South Zones last September, Health Link has provided specialized dementia advice to more than 250 Albertans.
Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.
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