Saskatchewan needs to do more to become dementia-friendly, Alzheimer Society says

Saskatchewan is not a dementia friendly province and more needs to be done to make those living with dementia feel like they're part of a community, say two CEOs of Alzheimer societies in Canada.

An estimated 500,000 Canadians live with dementia, expected to rise to more than 930,000 by 2032

The Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan has launched a program focused on making communities in the province more dementia-friendly. (iStock)

Saskatchewan grades poorly when it comes to dementia-friendly communities, a survey of caregivers by the Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan says.

The society has launched a program focused on cultivating dementia-friendly communities in the province which will roll out over three years. The program is aimed at making Saskatchewan communities less isolated and more welcoming for people living with dementia. 

Facilities in the province could use improvement, said Joanne Bracken, CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan. In addition to the caregiver survey, those with dementia will also be consulted and their voices on the matter heard, Bracken said.

Ways a community might become more dementia-friendly include recognizing the signs and symptoms of dementia, removing physical and social barriers for those who suffer from it, reducing stigma around dementia and making it easier for people living with it to engage and participate in their communities. 

Some examples of non-dementia friendly facilities include restrooms which are not clearly marked. Grocery stores are another example, since products may frequently be moved from one aisle to another. Work and consultation with stores can be done, Bracken said. 

Not a new concept

"All of us want to be part of a community. All of us have a legacy in our community," said Maria Howard, CEO of Alzheimer British Columbia.

She said a community could be as large as a city or as small as a group of friends or a book club. Dementia-friendly communities are not a new concept, either. Initiatives are in place in other parts of the world, including Canada. 

New Westminister, B.C. has its own civic action plan for accommodating people with dementia, Howard said. It includes policies in the city involving things such as parking, doctors' offices, ease of renewing pet licences and tools for legal proceedings.

"So, we have really looked at how you take a community and then provide that community with tools so that they can support people," Howard said. 

Training has been provided to municipalities as well as members of the Legislative Assembly in B.C., Howard added. Practical training includes using basic tools in interactions, such as asking someone who seems lost or struggling if they need help. 

It is estimated there are approximately 564,000 Canadians currently living with the disease. It is expected to rise to nearly 940,000 by 2032, according to the Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan. 

With files from CBC Radio's The Morning Edition