On May 3 and 4, the Dementia Learning Summit, hosted by the Canadian Institute for Seniors Care at Conestoga College, welcomed people living with dementia, health care workers, caregivers, educators and students from across Canada and around the globe.
Funded by Canadian Remote Access for Dementia Learning Experiences (CRADLE), a two-year project backed by the Government of Canada's Future Skills Centre, this virtual event attracted more than 3,100 registrations. The event showcased a series of presentations, panels and workshops focused on challenges and innovative solutions to support both people living with dementia and their care partners. There are currently 500,000 Canadians living with dementia, but that number is expected to reach 900,000 by 2030 which will lead to challenges in providing care for our seniors.
“The prevalence of dementia continues to rise, affecting a growing number of individuals and families across Canada and there’s a real need for educational opportunities to promote evidence-informed and person-centre dementia care,” said Conestoga president John Tibbits during a welcome address. “COVID-19 exacerbated existing challenges in the health care workforce and highlighted the need for all of us to work together to optimize a healthy quality of life for people affected by dementia.”
Keynote speakers during the two-day summit included Emmy-nominated actor Yvette Nicole Brown who shared her experiences as a caregiver for her father, journalist André Picard who presented a session on making eldercare more consumer-friendly for people living with dementia, and broadcaster Jay Ingram who explored the three questions everyone asks about dementia.
Also in attendance were Canadian singer-songwriters James Gordon and Katherine Wheatley who performed during the mid-day breaks.
As part of the line-up of presentations, Michelle Heyer, chair, Seniors Care, Canadian Institute for Seniors Care, provided attendees with an overview of how the CRADLE program was collaboratively designed and produced with more than 30 diverse partners across Canada.
CRADLE includes five 20-minute modules where seniors selected from diverse Canadian communities share their personal experiences living with dementia. The free training program has been made available for up to 50,000 personal support workers and other unregulated care providers across the country and is available in English, French, Mandarin and Tagalog.
Dementia is a complex disease, and care providers do not always have the skills and support to deliver the best care, so the online interactive training course is short, focused, accessible and helps bridge the existing skills gap across Canada. Unregulated care providers comprise the largest paid workforce in Canada’s health care system and may not have the skills needed to handle the more complex care needs of our seniors.
“We at the Future Skills Centre are delighted to be sponsoring this event and supporting the CRADLE project at Conestoga College … the work that you are doing, the discussions that you’ll be having today, the leadership you are taking in convening this conversation is so critical because an examination of dementia care, a commitment to raising the quality of available services, the need to value our workforce and invest in approaches that allow service providers to expand their skills - all of these things are desperately needed,” said Pedro Barata, executive director of the Future Skills Centre.
“Today’s summit is quite timely in the wake of this pandemic that has really underscored the urgency to improve our health care, our senior care and how to support the unregulated care workforce. It is critical that in these times that we need to reflect, to learn, to confront challenges in our practice and policy and how we care for our seniors, and, like you’re doing, come forward with real solutions that are working.”
To learn more, visit the CRADLE website.
The Canadian Institute for Seniors Care, led by Dr. Veronique Boscart, the CIHR/Schlegel Industrial Research Chair for Colleges in Seniors Care, focuses on education, workforce development and applied research to develop highly qualified personnel to improve the quality of life and care for Canada’s growing population of seniors.