Knowledge Resources & Publications

ISBN (Print) : 978-1-77368-191-7 | ISBN (Online) : 978-1-77368-192-4

Overcoming barriers to culturally safe and appropriate dementia care services and supports for Indigenous peoples in Canada

October 2018

As individuals age, memory loss can sometimes occur, resulting from both the natural aging process as well as from medical conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias that are progressively degenerative and irreversible. Dementias can affect an individual’s daily functioning and quality of life, as well as place a significant burden on family caregivers. While little is known about dementias among Indigenous populations in Canada, they are recognized as an emerging health issue in these communities. The Indigenous seniors population, while proportionately smaller than the general Canadian population, has been growing rapidly and rates of dementias are expected to increase due to a higher prevalence of risk factors in the development of the disease, including diabetes, midlife hypertension and obesity, physical inactivity, lower levels of education, and smoking. Further, Indigenous people face a host of barriers in accessing health care, including access to dementia care services and supports.

This paper aims to identify the challenges and burdens Indigenous people in Canada face in accessing culturally safe and appropriate dementia care services and supports, and suggests ways of overcoming these challenges. It begins by providing an overview of the general challenges Indigenous seniors face in accessing health services, then summarizes the literature on Indigenous perspectives of aging well and caring for loved ones with dementia, as understanding these perspectives is essential for developing programs and services that are responsive to their needs. Key elements of a culturally safe framework for dementia care for Indigenous communities and examples of innovative dementia care services for Indigenous peoples concludes the paper.

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