Innovation Themes

 Retired couple having a break while sitting on a bench outside their home.Aging in Place

Over the next 30 years, the prevalence of dementia is set to double. The increasing number of older adults as a proportion of the global population means, amongst other things, that healthcare facilities run the risk of becoming overcrowded and that practitioners will struggle to support those in need of care without additional resources in place. People with dementia may spend time in a hospital, nursing home or residential care, or they may live at home in their communities, alone or supported by family and caregivers. Aging in place means that older adults can choose to live at home if they can, and have attractive alternatives if they cannot. In order to achieve this, we need older adults to feel safe and supported, and to remain healthy and independent for as long as possible and as their needs change. Maximizing the quality of life and quality of care at advanced ages and keeping people in the community will be a major challenge of the 21st century and is already a focus of many government investments and strategies.

CABHI is looking for solutions to improve and maintain quality of life and quality of care, enabling older adults with dementia to maximize their independence and age in the most appropriate setting of choice. The best solutions will be innovative, engaging, practical, readily understood and solve a real-world problem for the individual, caregiver, healthcare provider or system.

Caregiver SupportPortrait of smiling home caregiver and senior woman walking together through a corridor.

According to the 2008/2009 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS)–Healthy Aging, an estimated 3.8 million Canadians who were aged 45 or older (35%) were providing informal care to a senior with a short- or long-term health condition. With the recent census data showing that for the first time in Canadian history, the population over 65 has exceeded the population under age 15, the reliance on informal caregivers to care for their loved ones is an ever-increasing focus and concern for governments around the world. In an already complex environment, we also know that the population with dementia in Canada is likely to double every 20 years going forward, and people with dementia generally require high levels of care, most of which is provided by informal or family caregivers.

Formal caregivers are individuals who receive payment to provide care, such as personal support workers and nurses, while informal caregivers are typically not paid to provide care and may include family members. Often both informal and formal caregivers receive little to no training on caring for older adults with complex health histories, and experience challenging behaviours that are difficult to manage. It is caregivers who often are the ones who keep their loved ones at home — however, this support comes at a cost of caregiver distress because they are at increased risk for burden, stress, depression, and a variety of other health complications leading to poorer quality of life for the caregiver. Caregivers often lack social contact and support, tend to have few leisurely pursuits and hobbies, and at times are forced to give up or reduce employment in order to care for their loved ones.

CABHI is looking for solutions that support caregivers (formal and informal) in their care for older adults with dementia. The best solutions will be innovative, engaging, practical, readily understood and solve a real-world problem for the individual, caregiver, healthcare provider or system.

Patient tells the doctor about her health issuesCare Coordination and Navigation

People with dementia have higher hospitalization rates, use more home health and nursing home care, experience more care transitions, and have higher healthcare expenditures. Sadly, the quality of care they receive is often suboptimal, which can be correlated with a disconnection and communication breakdown between care providers during care provision and transitions. Consider for a moment the number of organizations and people servicing an older adult at one time, including primary care, outpatient clinics, emergency departments, hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, residential care facilities, adult day centres, home and community care organizations, as well as formal and informal caregivers – who at times are family members that are separated by geography. This altogether makes care coordination and navigation quite challenging and puts our seniors’ population at risk.

However, with the proper solutions in place, good care coordination and seamless transitions can help older adults, including those with dementia, by addressing and improving sources of fragmentation and inefficiency in our healthcare system, thus enhancing care quality and health outcomes, and controlling healthcare expenditures.

CABHI is looking for solutions to assist older adults, caregivers and healthcare providers better coordinate and navigate care for older adults with dementia. The best solutions will solve a real-world problem for the individual, the caregiver, healthcare provider or system; and are innovative, engaging, practical, and readily understood.

Cognitive HealthOlder adult using a tablet

As the global population ages, cognitive decline amongst older adults threatens their independence, quality of life, and presents numerous challenges to the healthcare system. When cognitive decline presents itself with more advanced symptoms such as in-patients suffering from dementia, it can lead to a loss of sense of self, a decreased ability to cope with the normal demands of living, and greater vulnerability to disease, injury, malnutrition, crime, and abuse.

Recent research suggests that the more cognitively fit we are, the better we are able to make decisions, solve problems, and deal with stress and change. It’s important to take steps to maintain an active mind and remain cognitively fit as we age, even before we see symptoms of cognitive decline. Maintaining an active mind allows older adults to sustain greater levels of independence, maintain social connectedness, develop an ongoing sense of purpose, slow the progression of cognitive decline, and reduce the pressure on the healthcare system by keeping older adults at home — and out of hospitals and long-term care facilities.

CABHI is looking for new and innovative solutions that will improve and maintain cognitive health for aging adults and/or support the identification and assessment of adults at risk for cognitive impairment. The best solutions are innovative, introduce a new idea or technology, engaging, practical, and readily understood. User testing of solutions is a critical step, as are novel, scalable, and affordable solutions.

Indigenous, Diverse, and Rural Populations

Photo courtesy of Morning Star Lodge, a CABHI funded project.

Indigenous populations and individuals in rural and remote areas have unique needs to improve aging, maintain brain health and manage the challenge of living with dementia.

Evidence suggests dementia is advancing at a more rapid rate and at earlier onset within Indigenous communities. Risk factors such as obesity, hypertension, and diabetes occur at higher rates than the general Canadian population and, given a chronic lack of access to health professionals and services, are more difficult to manage and improve.

Rural and remote communities share the challenge of access to specialized geriatric and cognitive health supports. CABHI supports projects aimed at engaging older adults throughout the innovation process to develop culturally appropriate and safe programs, products and services that are widely and equitably accessible, locally, nationally and even internationally.