New Memory Clinic
In mid-March, a memory clinic will launch in Lion’s Head and Tobermory, offering relief to seniors and their families concerned about memory and other cognitive-related issues.
Two family physicians with the Peninsula Family Health Team – Drs. Elaine Blau in Tobermory and Jonathan Thomas in Lion’s Head, will launch a new program called the Primary Care Memory Clinic.
The clinic is one of 17 clinics opening in rural, remote and underserviced communities in Ontario, according to a news release issued by the Adopting Research to Improve Care (ARCTIC) Program, Jan. 23.
Initially, the clinic will provide services to patients of the Peninsula FHT, but the hope is that eventually it will be open to referrals from other communities.
An initial group of 4-6 patients of the Peninsula FHT will be seen by an inter-disciplinary team who will provide assessments and suggest treatment programs and follow-up. A second group will be assessed in mid-April.
Pamela Loughlean, executive director of the Peninsula FHT, described the approach as a “dedicated, one-stop shop,” in a telephone interview, Jan. 26.
She called the clinic “a great asset for our community, because that service has not been really available,” adding, “We’re very excited to have been chosen.”
While the specific details of the clinics have not yet been ironed out, “We are envisioning a collaborative team of four or five,” Loughlean said.
The team would include a family physician, nurse practitioners and a social worker.
“We are also extremely fortunate to have support from a counselor from the Alzheimer Society of Grey-Bruce,” she said.
Each patient will participate in a session which will last about three hours, including a battery of cognitive tests and interviews. A family member or caregiver will also be interviewed to determine the level of impairment of the patient.
Once the interviews are completed, the team members meet with the family physician in charge of the memory clinic and the results of each test and interview are presented for discussion.
Next, the entire team will meet with the caregiver/family member and the patient, Loughlean said.
“When they leave that day, there is a roadmap for other supports and other next steps,” she said, which will be done at the Peninsula FHT, with the Alzheimer Society or through a referral to a specialist.
Dr. Jonathon Thomas, lead physician of the clinic, said, “This is going to be a very slow and cautious rollout because we don’t want to compromise the care we’re giving.” Each of the two physicians involved also have full-time family practices, Thomas said in an interview, Feb. 7.
“I myself am personally very excited,” he said.
“We are starting a process here that I think is going to become the standard of care over the next decades.”
Thomas said, “This can be a super complex spectrum of symptoms. It’s hard to do much in 15 minutes.”
Thomas added a proper assessment is “often more than a single family doctor is able to do under their typical time restraints.”
The assessments will objectify and quantify the degree and what type of impairments are present, including what areas of the brain are involved, he said.
“Hopefully based on that, it allows us to customize some treatment suggestions,” he said, adding, “Sometimes, it’s more about supportive care and letting them know what to expect.”
The goal, he said, is to slow the progression or reduce the risks of cognitive impairment, such as determining, “Are they safe to drive? Able to manage their finances?” and so on.
“My hope is that, that way we’ll identify things perhaps earlier than we have been,” Thomas said.
The family physicians offering the clinic participated in a five-day accredited training program from Dr. Linda Lee, a Kitchener-based family physician and founder of the Primary Care Memory Clinic concept.
Dr. Lee’s clinic model allows primary care teams to care for patients living with dementia and to provide support for their caregivers.
According to the ARCTIC news release, the specialized training received by family physicians not only allows them to care for their patients with memory problems but “has reduced the need for specialist referrals from up to 80 per cent of patients with memory issues to fewer than 10 per cent who require specialist level care, improving the patient and caregiver experience.”
This also alleviates the levels of demand for specialists by providing an option to those who are not yet requiring attention from a specialist.
According to a report issued by Community Foundation Grey Bruce’s Vital Signs report, 2016, Grey Bruce has a higher population over 65 than the provincial average.
Many seniors – perhaps the highest percentage of them – live in the Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula, as reported by the Rural Ontario Institute in 2014.