New dementia resource consultant launched at Guelph General Hospital

GUELPH – Guelph General Hospital (GGH) has added a new role to the emergency department specifically designed to support community members who live with dementia or who care for someone living with dementia. 

The dementia resource consultant (DRC), launched this month in conjunction with International Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, was made possible by funding from the Alzheimer Society of Waterloo Wellington and offers support Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 4pm.

The new role works with patients to increase awareness and access to local programs, keeping them connected to specialized support in the comfort of their own home or community. 

“Emergency department visits can be particularly stressful for people with dementia and their caregivers, triggering confusion and fear. By linking them to resources where they live we can limit future hospital visits and the impacts that come with it,” explains Melissa Skinner, vice president of patient services and chief nursing executive at GGH.

A few of the areas of focus for the DRC include:

– coaching staff to recognize, understand, and address dementia-related behaviours;

– speaking with patients and caregivers to provide support, education, reassurance;

– Advocating for caregiver input regarding patient needs;

– referring patients and caregivers to community resources;

– liaising with other community health services, nurse practitioners, and doctors;

– timely respite support for people living with dementia and care partners, so everyone can get home safely; and

– providing other supports and resources to meet the individual needs of both patients and their caregivers.

Twenty two percent of patients seen in emergency at GGH from April 1, 2022 to March 31, 2023 were aged 65 and older. 

It is estimated that about 7% of Canadians over the age of 65 live with some form of dementia. 

This speaks to the immense value in including a professional focused on supporting dementia patients on the care team.

Ila Weston-Davis, the new DRC, is a registered practical nurse who has spent the bulk of her 30-year career working in seniors care. 

“I am so happy to support GGH’s emergency department ‘dream team’ in this role, they are wonderful to work with,” Weston-Davis said.

“It is truly rewarding to see the relief and gratitude in patients and their families, after you’ve helped them navigate the health care system.”

The Alzheimer Society of Waterloo Wellington executive director Michelle Martin says, “The effects of dementia are wide-reaching as family and friends are directly impacted by providing care and support. This can be stressful and overwhelming. 

“Ila will be able to apply her expertise to not only support patients but also their loved ones by providing access to resources to lighten that burden during times of crisis and beyond.”

Over 16,500 people are living with dementia in Waterloo-Wellington.

The proactive partnership between GGH and the Alzheimer Society of Waterloo Wellington has been funded by the Ministry of Health until March 31, 2024.

Permanent funding would provide support for the increase in dementia patients expected in the years ahead.

Additional Resources

Last September, the Alzheimer Society of Canada released Navigating the Path Forward for Dementia in Canada: The Landmark Study #1 which provides information and projections.

Alzheimer Society of Waterloo Wellington provides service and supports to people living with cognitive impairment and/or dementia and their care partners residing in Waterloo-Wellington.

Cost-free resources 

The Alzheimer Society provides education and counselling support through registered social workers, support groups, therapeutic recreational programs, and the Dementia, Resource, Education, Advocacy, Mentorship (DREAM) program at no cost to any person residing in Waterloo-Wellington. 

For more information visit or call 519 836 7672.