Evidence to assess the impact of COVID-19 on community-based dementia care in Nova Scotia

Halifax, NS (May 21, 2020) Dr. Katie Aubrecht is an assistant professor in the department of sociology at St. Francis Xavier University and Canada Research Chair Health Equity and Social Justice. A recent grant from the Nova Scotia Health Research Coalition is enabling her team to assess and strengthen available supports for vulnerable Nova Scotians living with dementia during COVID-19. Within the current context of social distancing and social isolation, evidence about the resources, services, and supports that make it possible for dementia care to continue at home in the community is lacking.

“Even less is known about the dementia related care needs and service realities of socially, economically, and geographically marginalized Nova Scotians,” says Dr. Aubrecht. “We want to discover if there are differences in the availability, accessibility, and delivery of dementia-relevant resources for ethno-racial cultural groups, disability, and LGBTQ communities.”

Dr. Aubrecht’s research team is comprised of experts in population health and aging from across Canada, the UK and Ireland. Drawing on interviews with diverse populations of people living with dementia and their family/friend caregivers, this rapid research study aims to address health services and policy research gaps by analyzing what supports currently exist and if they are still being offered during the pandemic.

 “The new knowledge generated from the work will develop a baseline that can be used to assess the impact of COVID-19 on service delivery both during and post-pandemic,” says Dr. Aubrecht. “It will also support efforts to transition from emergency measures and adjust to post-COVID-19 realities.”

According to Dr. Aubrecht, stigma, social marginalization, and geographic residence contributed to unmet care needs amongst Nova Scotians and families living with dementia even before the introduction of emergency measures to manage the spread of COVID-19. The emphasis on distancing and isolation as a protective measure exacerbates existing challenges and health inequities for these vulnerable populations.

“The COVID-19 pandemic will have long-term consequences for the quality of care and quality of life of people living with disability and dementia and their caregivers in Nova Scotia,” she says. “There is currently no evidence-based understanding of the broad suite of resources, supports, and services accessible to Nova Scotians living with dementia and their caregivers during a public health crisis and I would like to help change that.”

This research project was funded by the Nova Scotia COVID-19 Health Research Coalition. Partners include the Nova Scotia Health Authority, Dalhousie University, Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation, IWK Health Centre, IWK Foundation, QEII Health Sciences Foundation, Dartmouth General Hospital Foundation, and Research Nova Scotia. The Coalition is dedicated to leading and fostering a research environment that engages our academic partnerships and responds to the current needs of Nova Scotians and our health care system, in addition to maintaining the expertise in innovative research, discovery science, population/social sciences, and health system improvement. This funding partnership provides the opportunity to catalyze COVID-19 related research initiatives and achieve collective social impact. For more information visit https://researchns.ca/covid19-health-research-coalition/.