A new memory clinic at St. Joseph’s Family Medical and Dental Centre (FMDC) will mean earlier screening and support for those at risk or showing the first signs of dementia. It’s part of a growing trend and burgeoning need for the creation of memory clinics in primary care.
For the most part, family medical centres haven’t had sufficient expertise or the tools to fully screen for or diagnose dementia, explains Dr. Saadia Hameed, who will lead the clinic along with Dr. Tania Rubaiyyat. As a result, most patients are referred to specialists and waiting for screening and care.
“We are very excited to offer the memory clinic,” says Dr. Hameed. “It’s a tremendous addition to the services we can provide.”
At St. Joseph’s FMDC, which serves about 11,000 patients, physicians and staff from various disciplines have undergone intensive training to screen patients and develop a plan that includes treatment, education, counseling and other services that can delay decline, prevent crises, ease the burden on caregivers and keep people in their own homes as long as possible. The clinic, which will begin at the end of November, will mean only more complex patients will require a referral to a specialist.
“We know that the population is aging and that by 2036 one in every four people will be over age 65,” says Dr. Hameed. “With those numbers we expect the burden of dementia will be significant. By creating a memory clinic for our patients we can provide support and resources earlier to help these individuals and their loved ones.”
With dementia, changes in ability and personality happen slowly and progress for many years, which is often confusing for families, explains Dr. Hameed. Family physicians, who build relationships and regularly see their patients for conditions that are risk factors for dementia, such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes, are ideally positioned to screen early for cognitive changes.
The memory clinic team will include physicians, nurse practitioner, nurses, social worker, occupational therapist, pharmacist, dietitian as well as a representative from the Alzheimer Society.
“It’s a very robust team,” says Dr. Hameed. “Dementia isn’t a solitary diagnosis. Patients will have other medical problems as well and the dementia will impact themat. By bringing together a multidisciplinary team we can look at the patient from all the angles, make recommendations and put them in touch with the right resources.”