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Province-Wide Program Helping Those Living With Dementia

By Tim Herd Oct 31, 2022 | 10:37 AM

Image from the Navigating Dementia NB website.

A province-wide, community-based program is focusing on helping those living with dementia, their care partners, and their care teams navigate health and social services.

Navigating Dementia NB is organized by a team from the Centre for Research in Integrated Care (CRIC) at the University of New Brunswick, Université de Moncton, Horizon Health Network, and Vitalité Health Network.

“Our team has a history of doing a lot of research around patient navigation … we were approached by a group called Health Care Excellence Canada, which is funded by Health Canada … they reached out to us to do some exploratory work around exploring navigation for people with dementia and their care partners,” mentioned Shelley Doucet, co-lead for Navigating Dementia NB.

“So, we had a subcontract with them and we were doing some work around looking at how patient navigation programs have been implemented across Canada … and they were interested in us exploring how a patient navigation program could be implemented in New Brunswick,” continued Doucet.

Doucet also mentioned that the research team then did an in-depth needs assessment in New Brunswick to identify the needs of people with dementia, their care partners, and health and social care providers involved in their care.

The needs assessment helped with identifying gaps and barriers within the province, and how a patient navigation program would look within New Brunswick.

In 2021, Navigating Dementia NB applied for a grant through the Healthy Seniors Pilot Project, which is a funding agreement between the government of New Brunswick, and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The following year, the team received just over $1.6 million to pilot a patient navigation program within the province based on the needs assessment.


The program uses navigators who begin the process by meeting with someone who has been referred to them.

“It could be a referral from a primary care provider, from someone through the Alzheimer’s Society because we have been partnering with them as well,” mentioned Alison Luke, co-lead and one of the principal investigators for the project.

“It could also be a self-referral, so they may see one of our pamphlets or read something from a media post, and they feel they could use some support,” continued Luke.

Once the referral phase is complete the navigator would work with the person who reached out to identify what the patient’s primary needs would be.

“There has to be a lot of active listening involved … it’s got to be a real patient, focused approached where it helps to identify goals while working with the client, whether it’s the person with dementia or their partner,” Luke said.

Once the specific goals are identified the navigator would begin to find the best way to achieve those goals.

“Sometimes a care partner might say, ‘I would just like to know who I can call in social development, or is there a support group in my community?’ where other folks might be in a situation where they are very stressed and overwhelmed … and in those cases the navigator might be the person who makes those connections,” mentioned Luke.

In addition to the navigators supporting the patient and their care partners, they support the care team as well.

“For example, a physician, a nurse practitioner, or a nurse can call a navigator and seek support around navigating one of their clients or it could even be multiple clients,” mentioned Doucet.

The team with Navigating Dementia NB has hired all of the navigators and they are currently in place and are already helping individuals.

Doucet mentioned during the needs assessment the team discovered that people were looking for a navigator who was a health professional.

“Most navigators are health care providers or registered nurses, but we also have social workers as well, and individuals who have experience with the health care system.”

Peer Support Groups

Navigating Dementia NB also includes peer support groups.

They are currently housed on Facebook groups. One group is for individuals living with dementia, and the other is for caregivers.

“They are private groups that someone can request to join and we are offering navigational support within those groups as well as emotional support,” mentioned Dr. Lillian MacNeill, the project coordinator.

The groups are moderated by the patient navigators on a rotating basis while offering support when it is needed.

As well, moderators also include people with lived experience.

“We do have a few caregivers of individuals living dementia as moderators … so we are seeing a lot of activity, a lot of emotional support, a lot of navigational support going on within the groups,” added MacNeil.

Dr. Pamela Jarrett with Horizon Health Network is also a co-lead for Navigating Dementia NB, however, was not able to attend the interview.

The funding for this program is through the Healthy Seniors Pilot Project.

For information about the program, CLICK HERE.


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