Delivering Alzheimer's Treatment to First Nations
The Vancouver Sun recently published an interesting article about the delivery of health care services to those suffering from dementia in First Nations communities.
The statistics relating to the prevalence of dementia and Alzheimer’s in First Nations are limited. However, data that is available suggests that the rates amongst Aboriginals have surpassed non-Aboriginals – at least in the Western provinces.
In First Nations communities, Alzheimer’s is seen not as a disease, but rather a natural and sacred part of the aging process. The stigma associated with the disease in mainstream society is not as prevalent in First Nations communities.
While this allows First Nations communities to develop culturally appropriate ways to diagnose and treat Alzheimer’s, it also makes educating people about the medical aspects of the disease more difficult. Treatment and medication are not always prioritized.
To this end, the Oneida Nation of the Thames, in collaboration with the Alzheimer’s Society London and Middlesex, has developed the First Nations First Link program. First Link involves a holistic approach to dementia and integrates cultural, spiritual, and traditional elements when administering care. The program focuses on crisis intervention, individual and family support, and long term care preparations.
A major goal is to tailor the services of the programs so they are delivered in a culturally appropriate way. For example, on cognitive impairment screening tests, individuals are asked to identify objects which are representative of the Oneida community, such as a wolf and a medicine wheel.
Ultimately, the objective is to diffuse information about dementia throughout the community and develop screening tools and treatments that can be delivered in a culturally appropriate way.