AGING IN NEW BRUNSWICK: A USER’S GUIDE
AUTHOR(S) & CREDENTIALS: Dr. Michelle Lafrance, Ms. Ashley Erb, Dr. Janet Durkee-Lloyd, Dr. Michelle Greason, Dr. Shelley Doucet, Dr. Alison Luke, Dr. Catherine Bigonnesse, Ms. Karen Lake and Cassy Hemphill, Communications and Engagement Coordinator at the APPTA hub and AGE-WELL NCE.
AFFILIATED INSTITUTION(S): AGE-WELL National Innovation Hub: APPTA
Michelle Lafrance is a Professor of Psychology at St Thomas University (STU). Her research interests are primarily in the area of women’s health, and she approaches this work with a social and political lens. Her most recent work explores the experiences of family caregivers of older adults and was conducted with the aim of informing policy and practice in New Brunswick. Along with being a STU Professor, Michelle is also a founding member of the Critical Psychology Network – Canada and a past executive member of the International Society of Critical Health Psychology. She was also the winner of the Dr. John McKendy Memorial Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2013 and the Dr. Sheila Andrew Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2006.
Michelle’s interest in caregiving began years ago when interviewing women about their experiences of depression. For many, care work was a stressful and isolating experience that was central to their distress. Michelle was fortunate to be able to pursue her interest in this area when colleagues and herself were awarded a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant to study caregivers of older adults. This work was conducted with Dr. Carmen Poulin (University of New Brunswick) and Dr. Lynne Gouliquer (Laurentian University). The three interviewed 44 caregivers of older adults across the province and very quickly noted that one of their central challenges was the confusing, opaque and disjointed ‘system’. Participants described how hard it was to get the help and support they needed to provide care. In a subsequent initiative called the “Aging in New Brunswick” project, Michelle and a team of practitioners and scholars in the area of navigation developed a way to be of practical assistance to New Brunswickers in helping them navigate these confusing systems.
The main goal of the Aging in New Brunswick project was to develop a tool to help older adults and caregivers navigate the systems, services, and resources that are often required as people age. In accordance with participants’ clear request, the tool is a paper document organized around common “pain points” in senior care: home care, long term care, accessibility aids, financial issues, legal issues, health and medical issues, living with dementia, driving safety, and end of life planning. Dr. Lafrance and her team aimed to make the document clear, concise, accessible, and bilingual.
The PDF of the documents are available online (https://www.stu.ca/aging-in-nb) and thanks to the recent funding and support of the Department of Social Development and Horizon Health, hard copies are available to the public via 2-1-1. They are also available via the Public Library system (including the libraries by mail service).
When asked why research in this area is of particular importance, Dr. Michelle Lafrance stated that she believed as the COVID crisis laid bare, our systems for senior care are failing. She feels that urgent attention is required to support older adults in New Brunswick as well as across Canada and that it is essential for the system to become more streamlined, seamless, and accessible. However, until that time, serious help is required with navigation. She said that while the document her team created is useful, it can only assist those who are literate and have the resources and skills to advocate on their own behalf. Much more extensive support is required to enable New Brunswickers to ‘age well’.