Primary care memory clinics to benefit Island Health seniors

Two new primary care memory clinics, located in Victoria and Nanaimo, will provide support to adults concerned about cognitive changes, such as memory loss. These clinics feature an interdisciplinary team of family physicians, nurses, social workers, and occupational therapists, with back up support from specialists if necessary. 

“Not all memory loss is caused by dementia, and proper medical assessment and treatment can improve cognitive problems, improve independence, or even delay dementia. This is why it is so important to ensure the availability of early diagnosis and ongoing treatment and support,” says Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “A dedicated team of healthcare providers working together to develop memory loss care plans that consider the whole person fits perfectly within our primary care strategy where the goal is to create a seamless, patient-centred experience that meets an individual’s unique health needs.” 

“As our population ages, the number of seniors experiencing memory loss continues to rise. The addition of these two new primary care memory clinics will offer faster access to early assessment, care support planning, and resources for Island Health seniors, allowing them to avoid lengthy, unnecessary wait times to see a specialist, experience fewer emergency department visits, and enjoy more independence at home,” says Leah Hollins, Island Health Board chair.

The Island Health Seniors’ Health program has been assisted by Ontario-based MINT Memory Clinics, an integrated, team-based model of care that helps build capacity and improves access to high-quality, patient-centered dementia care. Led by Dr. Linda Lee and established at over 110 sites in Ontario, the MINT Memory Clinic program received funding support from the Canadian Frailty Network to offer training and mentorship in order to implement the model in other jurisdictions, including Island Health.

“The MINT model of care has demonstrated significant reductions in assessment wait times as compared to waits for specialist referrals, extended time at home prior to requesting long-term care placements, and fewer and shortened emergency department visits in addition to other benefits,” says Dr. Marilyn Malone, Island Health Medical Director, Seniors’ Health. “Memory loss is a challenge many seniors will face and we are pleased to offer increased supports to healthcare providers and their patients and families here in Island Health.” 

Other supporters include the Neil and Susan Manning Cognitive Health Initiative, which collaborated with Island Health on an implementation plan for the primary care memory clinics, as well as the Victoria and Nanaimo Divisions of Family Practice. The Alzheimer Society of British Columbia will also provide staff to support clients at the clinics, as well as follow-up through the First Link program.

“Ongoing primary care that considers the whole person is vital to keep individuals as healthy as possible. Local family doctors are pleased to participate in providing this new memory service so seniors will be able to receive support close to home at an early stage, by a dedicated team that gets to know them and can address their unique needs, says Dr. Katharine McKeen, co-chair, Victoria Division of Family Practice and co-chair, Victoria PCN Steering Committee, and Dr. Tim Troughton, co-chair, Victoria Division of Family Practice.

Referrals to this new memory service will be initiated by a primary care provider. Beginning September 21, the Victoria primary care memory clinic will operate two days per week, at its temporary location at the new Downtown Victoria Urgent and Primary Care Centre, with funding for nursing and allied care provided through the Victoria Primary Care Network. The Nanaimo primary care memory clinic, located at the Nanaimo Health Unit, will open September 23 and be operated with existing Community Health Services resources one day a week.