Members in the Media

Sunset Country Family Health Team opens clinic to treat those with dementia problems

Kenora Daily Miner and News article published on March 9, 2016. Article in full pasted below.

Kenora is home-base to the first memory clinic in Northwestern Ontario.

The Sunset Country Family Health Team became the 78th clinic in Ontario and the first in the Northwest when it opened in February 2016 under the guidance of Dr. Linda Lee and her team from the Centre for Family Medicine Family Health Team in Kitchener-Waterloo. Lee established the first primary care memory clinic in 2006.

Randy Belair, executive director of the Sunset Country Family Health Team, said the benefits of having a memory clinic in Kenora and the Lake of the Woods region are numerous.

“We will increase the potential for improving diagnosis, which will have a significant impact on people’s lives,” said Belair. “Our team will provide team-based management and care throughout transitions, including system navigation.”

A primary care memory clinic has a team of caregivers like nurses, social workers, pharmacists, dieticians, occupational therapists and Alzheimer Society team members working together and led by family physicians to better care for and meet the needs of persons with memory difficulties and associated conditions.

Lee and her team helped set up the memory clinic for Sunset Country Family Health Team in mid-February and were back in Kenora March 7-9 to train staff on observership and mentorship, the latter of which involves interacting with patients. Once the staff at Sunset Country Family Health Team is fully trained and the program is implemented, they should be able to manage about 90 per cent of “memory loss” cases within the clinic.

Lee first became interested in the idea of memory clinics when she took over an elderly practice in the late 1980s where she began to understand the needs of people with memory problems and how difficult giving them proper care was in a regular doctor’s office.

“I was touched by the magnitude of suffering these people and their family members go through and very aware of the huge gaps in care for them,” said Lee. “We became a family health team in 2006 and I thought this was my opportunity to try to change the system of care and use the inter-professional health-care providers that were part of the team in the efficient, evidence-based way that would help me offer the kind of care these people need.

“We were able to create a model of care that didn’t exist before — a point of access for persons living with dementia and their care partners, between the specialist and the primary care physician, but rooted in the primary care practice setting,” added Lee. “Based on our studies with this model, we can manage up to 90 per cent of the cases without relying on specialist referrals.”

This frees up specialists to focus on the most complex cases of memory loss and dementia cases.