Dr. Karen Parsons
Faculty of Nursing
Co-Investigators: Dr. April Pike, Faculty of Nursing; Dr. Gail Wideman, Faculty of Social Work
Dr. Parsons was awarded a 2019 ARC-NL Research Grant, co-funded by the Harris Centre Population Project, for her project entitled,
Engaging Seniors with Early Dementia to Improve Awareness of and Access to Supportive Community Services: A Pilot Project in Three Areas of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador.
ARC-NL: What piqued your interest in this area of research?
The impetus for my interest in dementia research stems from the early years of my career as a registered nurse in community health (continuing care). My clinical responsibilities often included the older adult population, particularly those with dementia being cared for at home. I found this area of community nursing to be particularly interesting and challenging.
ARC-NL: Can you please provide a brief synopsis of your specific project?
The onset of dementia marks the start of negotiating access to a wide range of health and social services to find practical and emotional support to deal with the many changes dementia incurs. In light of this we are conducting a pilot project in Eastern NL. Our primary objectives are: 1) to identify barriers and facilitators related to access and uptake of formal supportive services that are necessary to improve and sustain health and quality of life; and, 2) to identify best strategies to support the development, implementation, and sustainability of an action plan to enhance access and uptake of supportive services to improve health and quality of life. Data was collected by conducting interviews with older adults who have early onset dementia and caregivers of those with dementia as well as key informants such as registered nurses and social workers who work with the target population.
ARC-NL: How did getting the support of the ARC-NL Research Grant assist you with your project?
Support from ARC-NL has enabled us to hire a research assistant for recruitment of participants, data collection and transcription of interviews. It will also fund dissemination of results to community partners, government and to the greater academic community.
ARC-NL: How do you feel your research will benefit the aging population of Newfoundland and Labrador? Canada?
It is known that quality of life (QOL) for older adults with dementia is better at home than in institutions, which in turn decreases the financial burden of dementia care. Timely access to supportive services is necessary to enable improvements in dementia care, increase quality of life, reduce informal caregiver burden, and reduce health care costs. With appropriate support, older adults with early dementia can live at home longer, contribute in society and maintain a positive quality of life.
Our long-term goal is to inform the development of resources and best strategies to support a sustainable action plan to enhance access to and uptake of supportive services for older adults and their partners/significant others living at home with dementia in NL. An output of our research will be a toolkit of resources to facilitate awareness of and access to appropriate community supportive services for older adults with early dementia and their caregivers. Additionally, an executive report will be presented to the Minister for Children, Seniors and Social Development, Government of NL, to inform the creation of best practices for dementia care. Furthermore, the Office of the Seniors’ Advocate, the Alzheimer’s Society and the Provincial Advisory Council on Aging and Seniors who have a direct link to government are well positioned to advocate for the translation of research into healthy public policy.
This research will strengthen applications for other sources of funding in order to study all areas of NL and evaluate the outcomes of the current study as well as establish an Advisory Committee to the Government of NL.
ARC-NL: Is there any past experience that you feel is pertinent to your success today?
Most of my academic research and teaching career, starting with my graduate studies and then as a faculty member within the Faculty of Nursing has focused on the older adult population, particularly on dementia and dementia care. This research was also funded by a Seed Grant from Memorial University of Newfoundland.