As the founder of MINT Memory Clinics, Dr. Linda Lee said she always had a vision — to ensure that all people living with dementia, whether they live in a bustling urban centre or a remote rural town, have access to equitable care.
In 2021, she’s getting a step closer. After helping to establish clinics in 117 communities across Ontario, she’s expanding to sites in three other provinces.
“We’ve taken a bold step. It’s the first spread nationally,” said Dr. Lee.
In the two years since she received a $100,000 Joule Innovation grant for MINT (Multi-specialty INterprofessional Team-based) Memory Clinics, Dr. Lee has disrupted the current dementia care model.
By helping patients access high-quality dementia care within their local family doctor’s office, the model has helped with earlier detection of dementia and allowed primary care providers to better collaborate with colleagues and specialists.
How MINT clinics work
MINT clinics offer an integrated model of care including family physicians, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, pharmacists, the Alzheimer Society and others as available.
Patients and caregivers receive a diagnosis early in the process and work with their MINT team, including a trained family physician and other health care professionals, to develop a plan of management. The MINT clinic consults with geriatric specialists when necessary.
In most cases, the primary care providers end up managing all aspects of dementia care in the community. Referrals are streamlined ― only those patients who truly need to see a geriatric specialist are referred to one.
Dr. Lee credits the recognition she received for MINT clinics through the Joule Innovation grant as being instrumental in the expansion.
“It really helped raised the profile of our integrated model of dementia care.”
Since the launch of MINT clinics, Dr. Lee has also received a Future Innovator Award from the Change Foundation, and the Canadian Frailty Network contributed funding to expand MINT clinics outside Ontario.
Expanding during a pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed some challenges for Dr. Lee’s expansion.
“The pandemic has greatly impacted people living with dementia, who are struggling with social isolation and reduced community service support,” she said.
To address these needs, MINT clinics moved to a hybrid model of virtual and in-person visits. When assessments must be completed in person, staff, patients and caregivers use protective equipment including face masks and face shields. When appropriate, virtual visits have been a welcome option.
“Some of the virtual components have been a very positive addition, particularly in terms of routine follow-up of care,” Dr. Lee said. She explained these services could continue after the pandemic.
By 2030, it is estimated that nearly one million Canadians will live with dementia, and the limited numbers of geriatric specialists will leave many communities ill-prepared to handle these patients’ complex needs.
Dr. Lee hopes her expansion of MINT clinics will help address these gaps, with an end goal of eventually having a clinic in every province and territory — and equity across the country.
“That is the goal — to get the same care in rural areas as in downtown Toronto.”
This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. The opinions stated by the authors are made in a personal capacity and do not necessarily reflect those of the Canadian Medical Association and its subsidiaries including Joule.