Mr. Clark: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Now, since I first started asking about Alberta’s poor track record on dementia care, I’ve heard from Albertans all over the province. They’ve shared their stories of poor conditions in long-term care facilities, real struggles accessing home care, and continued stigma around dementia and aging in general. Recently the Dementia Network Calgary released an advocacy survey. Eighty-eight per cent of respondents felt that Alberta’s dementia strategy should shift from a task-based model to a relational model of care. To the Minister of Health: is that on your radar, and if so, what are you doing to make it happen?

The Speaker: The hon. minister.

Mr. Eggen: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Certainly, it’s a very good question from the hon. member. As we know that we’re seeing increasing rates of dementia across the province, we need to have not just a targeted strategy but a larger societal one as well, so building and educating along with having more home care, and to be able to make investments. Since 2015 we’ve invested about $6.8 million into measures to give families tools to help support their loved ones. I mean, I know that this is a very difficult thing, but certainly we’re all in it together, and we need to support each other, especially when dementia strikes a family.

The Speaker: First supplemental.

Mr. Clark: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. One of the respondents to the Dementia Network survey said: “The biggest problem is not enough staff. Some patients need more . . . care. It’s appalling to see residents sitting in soiled clothing, unable to eat in front of a TV for hours. They deserve better.” Albertans do deserve better. To the Minister of Health: what are you doing to fix this problem?

The Speaker: The hon. minister.

Mr. Eggen: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker. Certainly, this condition and others are very, very difficult. We certainly feel for individuals and families and staff that work with dementia and work in facilities such as this. We know that we need to look for better diagnosis, early diagnosis, better brain health, and stronger community supports for years to come. By investing in health care, by redoubling and making sure we’re investing in home care and community supports, I think that together with all parties we can help to relieve some of the suffering that dementia does cause.

The Speaker: Second supplemental.

Mr. Clark: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Now, given that system navigation was identified as a big problem and given that people are struggling as full-time caregivers and simply don’t have the ability or expertise to also be a system navigator and given that this creates a huge gap between haves and have-nots, between those who are able to advocate and those who are left to fend for themselves, and given that one of the best navigation tools available today is the First Link line, to the Minister of Health. There’s some concern that this important resource may be cancelled. I’ll ask you for a simple yes or no. Will you continue funding First Link?

The Speaker: The hon. minister.

Mr. Eggen: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you so much for the question. We know that since 2015, in fact, the Health ministry did expand the First Link program with $1.95 million more of funding and also has been investing in specifically trained dementia nurses through the Health Link, 811. So, yes, absolutely. Having a knowledgeable navigation through the system is absolutely essential. You want to make sure you keep it simple, you want to make sure you keep it powerful, and you want to make sure that there are lots of different options available for people.

 


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