Teamwork Improves Dementia Diagnosis and Care

Categories: Advocacy, Living with Dementia|By |Published On: |

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Vancouver Islanders benefit as MINT Memory Clinics expand nationwide access to dementia care.

A growing number of Vancouver Islanders living with dementia were in dire need of resources when Dr. Marilyn Malone began to search for ways to improve the system nearly a decade ago.

“What I wanted to see was improvements that would aid early dementia diagnosis and memory care,” says Malone, the medical director of Seniors Health at Island Health in Victoria. “I wanted to bring it to the clinical frontline.”

That’s when she found an Ontario-based organization with a care model akin to what she was looking for locally — MINT Memory Clinics — and started her advocacy journey to bring a similar model to her community. But the path would not be easy.

MINT’s journey to the island

Since many of her colleagues doubted a memory clinic was needed or even doable for the island, it was tough to get the ball rolling, Malone says.

Still, she buckled down to raise awareness about the importance of primary care memory clinics to groups of physicians and Island Health senior leadership. When she showed the impact dementia alone has on the health-care system, enough of them were swayed.

Dr. Marilyn Malone

Then came the issue of funding.

“When you're trying to fund something with government resources, there are always checks and balances and hoops to jump through to get the money,” she says. “It’s a never-ending source of learning and frustration to get things to happen.”

Aided by the Neil and Susan Manning Cognitive Health Initiative, Malone and an interdisciplinary team from Island Health came together to plan for financing and implementing the clinics. And with the help of various stakeholders, eventually the cash fell into place.

Through persistence and collaboration, MINT finally arrived on the island in September 2021, with one location in Victoria and another in Nanaimo, B.C. Both clinics are now serving locals living with dementia.

“It's a matter of maintaining focus on living well, which might look different if you have dementia because you might need more support in different ways."

– Dr. Marilyn Malone

What is a MINT Memory Clinic?

MINT is an acronym for multispecialty interprofessional team, and teamwork is its novelty. Each health-care professional under its model receives standardized accredited training. Team members include doctors, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, occupational therapists and community agencies who work together to provide a full spectrum of person-centred memory care.

Photo courtesy of Pexels.

The first MINT Memory Clinic launched in 2006 with seasoned dementia expert, Dr. Linda Lee, at its helm. Her purpose was to unite compassionate dementia care with local primary care while supporting patients in a simpler process of diagnosis, planning and acting. MINT now has over 110 clinics nationwide, each one in pursuit of this mission.

“It's a matter of maintaining focus on living well, which might look different if you have dementia because you might need more support in different ways,” Malone says. “Dr. Lee had a model that addressed all those issues with proven benefits, better outcomes, great patient satisfaction and greater provider satisfaction.”

“MINT is a different model we know works better."

– Dr. Marilyn Malone

Tackling a nationwide need

While the Vancouver Island clinics are meant to benefit locals, they advance the nationwide goal of improving the health system and access to dementia care, says Malone.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

“I've had many examples in my career where I've seen the system fail patients,” she says, “Most family doctors don't have the luxury of adequate scheduled time to actually work through an assessment, diagnosis and care plan with an interdisciplinary team.”

This is true across the country. As the number of Canadians living with dementia will reach one million by 2034, more resources will be required to address the growing need for care, says the Alzheimer Society of Canada.

Encouraged by improvements in her community and impact results out of Ontario (see below), Malone says she envisions MINT-type clinics spanning Canada to help provide these resources.

“MINT is a different model we know works better,” she says. “There's always something we can do for non-curable diseases, even if it's having a kind word or connecting with the person, which is an act of healing and wellness. We need to do more of that in medicine.”

MINT’s impact

Malone’s praise of MINT Memory Clinics is supported by a 2019 evaluation by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, which shows:

  • Wait times to receive dementia care were nearly cut in half.
  • Hospitalizations occurred later and were shorter.
  • People with dementia were able to delay entry to long-term care homes for an average of six months.
  • It saved money, with a 38 per cent drop in cost per day during a person’s dementia care journey.

Perhaps the most telling number that came from the evaluation was that 96 per cent of persons living with dementia and their care partners would recommend MINT, showing person-centred care works in improving quality of living.

How it works:

  1. Get a referral to a MINT Memory Clinic.
  2. Attend the appointment.
  3. Complete a memory assessment and get advice.
  4. Plan your future jointly with MINT and your primary care professional.
  5. Receive ongoing support to keep the best quality of life for as long as possible.

Malone encourages those who think they may need a cognitive assessment or other resources to reach out to their doctors or nurse practitioners and ask if there is a MINT clinic nearby.

“Neurological diseases that affect cognition are the scourge of our time,” she says. “But there's opportunity … to have a great quality of life with memory care. There are supports for you and there are so many people you can connect to.”


Learn more about MINT Memory Clinics.

Find a clinic near you.