Closing the geriatric service gap
New doctor providing geriatric care to Cape Bretoners
In the news every day we read about the doctor shortage the island is facing. You can imagine how happy I am to introduce you to Dr. Arlene Kelly-Wiggins, a doctor fulfilling the need for geriatric services.
Born and raised in Glace Bay, Kelly-Wiggins studied chemistry at Cape Breton University and St. FX University where she also completed her bachelor of education.
She taught high school chemistry and sciences in Ottawa for 10 years, but following the birth of her two children, Kelly-Wiggins decided to move home to Cape Breton. After substituting for a short period, she followed her passion for helping others and attended medical school at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
She completed her family medicine residency in Sydney and finished an extra year of geriatric training this past summer. Her passion for geriatrics and palliative care grew during her programming and training rotations, which led Kelly-Wiggins to specialize in geriatric medicine and now she conducts a clinic in Sydney.
“Because Cape Breton has been without a geriatric service for so long, there’s a very high demand and large volume of patients. People are in dire need of the service,” said Kelly-Wiggins.
The clinic is a full-service geriatric clinic with one full-time physician — Kelly-Wiggins — and an additional doctor working part time along with nursing and administrative staff. They work collaboratively with other community support services.
“We provide a comprehensive geriatric assessment that examines the person from all aspects such as focus on function, their assets and deficits, frailty, past medical history, and what services they have in place and will need,” said Kelly-Wiggins.
“The clinic focuses on people aged 65 and over with health issues or complaints beyond what primary care can meet. We will see people dealing with dementia, falls, polypharmacy and frailty. We want to make things as good as we can for them.”
Referrals to the clinic can be made through primary care doctors or nurse practitioners.
With Kelly-Wiggins’s previous experience working in environments where the majority of the work is done in a patient’s home, her long-term goal is to do initial assessments from there, or to even have a satellite clinic.
“I would like to keep people living at home longer with the assistance of staff and network of local resources,” she said.
If you are interested in learning more about the clinic and how it will support people through their journey with dementia, KellyWiggins will be speaking at the Alzheimer Awareness Breakfast in Sydney on Jan. 16. The event will be held at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre from 7-9 a.m.
The breakfast provides an opportunity for the community to come together to learn about Alzheimer’s and other dementias. The event engages community members, physicians, nursing home employees, home-care agencies and businesses in education. It ensures the audience leaves with a better understanding of what life is like on the island for people with dementia and the resources available.
Alzheimer Awareness Breakfast tickets can be purchased by calling the society at 1-800-611-6345 or online at www.alzheimer.ca/ns. Catherine Shepherd is the education co-ordinator for the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia in Cape Breton. She lives in North Sydney and happily spends her day providing resources and support for people on the dementia journey. To reach the society, call toll-free 1-800-611-6345 or email [email protected]