Clos­ing the ge­ri­atric ser­vice gap

New doc­tor pro­vid­ing ge­ri­atric care to Cape Bre­ton­ers

Cape Breton Post - - COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS - Catherine Shep­herd

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]

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