What is this project about and why is it important?

This project is supported by the Canadian Dementia Learning and Resource Network at the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging (RIA) and funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada under the Dementia Community Investment (DCI). These funded projects are actively developing and testing tools, resources, and approaches to promote the well-being of persons living with dementia and care partners.

This partnership between the University of Manitoba and six First Nations communities is working to help informal caregivers and people living with dementia lead fulfilling and happy lives. The project wants to spread knowledge by creating training materials that are appropriate for using in other Indigenous communities with the goal of lessening the impact of risk factors for developing dementia.

Awareness of dementia, its risk factors and how to live well with dementia is a growing area of interest in Indigenous communities. These communities are disproportionately impacted by dementia due to a number of factors including inequalities in accessing health care, inadequate housing and the impact of trauma. This project is using a First Nations Holistic Policy and Planning model to develop programming that will raise awareness of risk factors for dementia and promote strategies for reducing risk factors. The knowledge generated by this project will be used to develop training materials to share with other communities who want to implement similar initiatives in their respective communities.

Who is this project for?

This project is geared towards care partners, Indigenous and First Nations communities who want to improve the wellbeing of people living with dementia and care partners.

Resources this project has created

3 Key Takeaways

  1. How dementia is managed and addressed in Indigenous communities is different than in an urban setting. Many of the associated risk mitigation strategies – eating healthy food, incorporating exercise – is a challenge in rural remote settings where there are no sidewalks to encourage walking, the presence of wildlife such as bears and wolves pose a safety risk to outdoor activities, and the selection of healthy food options is not as diverse or as accessible as within city limits. The strategies developed needed to take these factors into account while still incorporating the necessary factors of exercise and healthy eating.
  2. The most success approach to date for risk mitigation was the development of relationships between the Community Workers and the PLWD & their caregivers. The PLWD would engage well in the activities and the conversations sparked during these one-on-one visits. Once a trust was established, the PLWD felt more secure in participating in a group setting with other individuals diagnosed with dementia. When the one-on-one visits were reduced or changed to virtual due to COVID-19, engagement tapered off and relationships needed to be re-built before the PLWD was once again invested in the program.
  3. Due to the physical environment of the rural remote communities, the project needed to take a pro-active engagement methodology to dementia education and risk mitigation. Unlike in an urban setting, where seminars advertised to various groups could lead to registration in the program, the project lead needed to connect with the health centre directors to identify a Community Worker to actively reach out to PLWD. The relationship then needed to be created between the Community Worker and PLWD before the PLWD was interested in participating in the program. Prior to this approach, sending out messages about dementia education classes or seminars being held at the local community centre did not garner any response.

Project Details

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba

Duration: 2020-2023

Project Team:

  • Reg Urbanowski, Dean, College of Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Manitoba

  • Maribel Abrenica, College Office Manager, Project Coordinator

  • Cara Brown, Faculty member, Department of Occupational Therapy, University of Manitoba

  • Erynn Moar, Community Worker for Lake Manitoba, University of Manitoba

  • Lacey Kirkness, Community Worker for Opaskwayak Cree Nation, University of Manitoba

  • Tracy Guimond, Community Worker for Sagkeeng, University of Manitoba

  • Emily Thorlacius, Community Worker for Pinaymootang, University of Manitoba

Project Partner(s):

This project works with six First Nations communities in Manitoba:

  • Lake Manitoba First Nation
  • Pinaymootang First Nation
  • Sagkeeng Anicinabe
  • Opaskwayak Cree Nation

This project is funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada under the Dementia Community Investment (DCI).