DKT Example 2

Dementia and First Nation Communities in Rural and Remote Reserve Communities

Principal Investigator: Dr. Lesley McBain, First Nations University of Canada, Northern Campus, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan (Canada)

Research Partner: CDKTN, National Core for Neuroethics, UBC Faculty of Medicine, Vancouver (Canada)

Project Background

Dr. McBain’s research focuses on dementia within the First Nations population who live in rural and remote reserve communities in Canada. She is particularly interested in the challenges facing First Nations people when accessing dementia care services, such as geographic distance, culturally appropriate assessment tools, and jurisdictional barriers. The three month Visiting Scholar position at UBC provided the opportunity to examine the policies and programs available to First Nations people facing dementia in British Columbia and Saskatchewan. Despite predictions of an increase in the incidence of dementia in First Nation communities, the literature review and examination of existing programs and policies revealed a paucity of programs and policies related to dementia care for reserve residents in both Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

Knowledge Translation Strategies Used

To gain a clearer understanding of the situation in British Columbia, in addition to the existing literature, meetings were arranged with representatives from the Aboriginal Health Strategic Initiative at Vancouver Coastal Health and the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA). Dr. McBain attended the national conference of the Canadian Association on Gerontology, and the 2012 Indigenous Statistics Conference. She also participated in the professional development workshop related to Aboriginal health sponsored by the Aboriginal Health Strategic Initiative and Vancouver Coastal Health.

The extensive literature review and consultations revealed that, with respect to dementia diagnosis and care, First Nation communities in British Columbia experience similar challenges to those in Saskatchewan. The three month time frame precluded interviewing First Nation residents to learn more about their experience with dementia in reserve communities. However, being housed at the National Core for Neuroethics at UBC provided a rich environment in which to explore many of the ethical questions surrounding dementia care for the First Nations population.


This research reinforced that despite a projected increase in the incidence of dementia within the First Nations population, there is a scarcity of knowledge and resource related to the disease particularly for individuals living in rural and remote reserve communities. The situation is similar across Canada. Although it is crucial that the gap be addressed soon, the research also concluded that the lack of materials is not necessarily harmful. The research found that rather than trying to adjust existing programs and policies, which may not be meeting peoples’ needs, the current void provides the chance to gain a clearer understanding about First Nations’ perspective of dementia and how to deal with the disease. Appropriate policies and programs can then be fitted to reflect not only the needs but also the strengths of First Nations people and their communities.

A “Commentary” entitled “First Nation Communities and Dementia: Challenges and Opportunities” is in the final stages of preparation for submission to the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Funding Acknowledgment

Dr. McBain’s research was supported by the Canadian Dementia Knowledge Translation Network (CDKTN) Visiting Scholar Program.

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