Article Submitted by Marcia Carr (RN,BN,MS,GNC(C), NCA), Clinical Nurse Specialist – geriatric medicine, geriatric psychiatry


Dementia is a slowly progressive type of brain disease that often affects the way a person can safely function in their daily life. The most common issue seen is a gradual change in worsening memory; especially about recent events. However, it is important to know that there are other signs and symptoms. A medical diagnosis is essential as the person and family’s dementia journey may vary dependent on the type and stage of the dementia. 

It is important that both the person with dementia and their support people (family and friends) know and understand what health care and social resources are available that can help better guide and manage this journey. Additionally, make sure that the person has a primary care provider (either a family physician or nurse practitioner) who will be to manage the medical treatment and other dementia-related problems that arise.

Future planning is very important so that the person can participate as much as possible in decisions related to their care, finances and living arrangements. The People’s Law School publication “Planning for Your Future” is an excellent guide to what is legally and financially needed. A copy of this booklet is available free through www.peopleslawschool.ca.

Alzheimer’s Society is a non-profit organization that is the recommended resource to access not just information but also for emotional support. Their services are for all types of dementia not just Alzheimer’s. Their individualized approach enables respectful and dignified personalized information, counseling and guidance. They do not provide any hands-on physical care but rather assist in recommending both public and private services that may be helpful. 

When the person needs assistance with personal care like bathing, grooming, mobility, medication management, caregiver support, each health authority in BC has home and community health services that can assist. Find out where yours is through the following website – click here. If you are new or unaware of the BC Health Care System, it is suggested that you look at this navigation booklet prepared by Fraser Health. Your primary care provider can send a referral to the Home and Community Health Services so that a community health nurse can directly connect with the person and family to complete an assessment and develop a care plan. Please be sure to have the person with dementia’s previous year tax assessment form so that costs can be determined. If the person is on Guaranteed Income Supplement, there is no charge for home support services. This connection with Home and Community Services is very important for the future as it is through them that long-term care is arranged. Should the person need to move into a nursing home or assisted living, it is facilitated through this service.

The person with dementia and their support people may also need support to help manage behaviours associated with the disease. There are several services that may be called upon to assess and develop a plan of care. The Older Adult Mental Health and Substance Misuse Service requires a referral from a health care professional. They also offer group programs that address anxiety and depression. 

Our own Nikkei Seniors Health Care and Housing Society also has developed specific programs as well that are culturally and language sensitive. Please contact our Activity’s Coordinator, Yoko Watase, for more information (604-777-5000).

These are just a few key resources that may assist the person and their support people to proactively navigate the health care system.