In this quality standard, the term “caregiver” refers to an unpaid person who provides care and support, such as a family member, friend, or anyone identified by the person living with dementia.
In choosing this term, the lived experience advisors on our Quality Standard Advisory Committee also considered a number of other terms currently being used to describe this role locally, provincially, and internationally. These included “care partner,” “informal caregiver,” “family caregiver,” “carer,” and “primary caregiver.”
We acknowledge that not everyone in this role may identify as a “caregiver.” In addition, their role may change over time, especially as the person’s dementia progresses and they require more assistance. Our choice to use “caregiver” does not diminish or negate terms that an individual may prefer.
In this quality standard, “substitute decision-maker” refers to a person who makes care and treatment decisions on another person’s behalf if or when that person becomes mentally incapable of making a decision for themselves. The substitute decision-maker should be involved in ongoing discussions with the person about their goals of care, wishes, values, and beliefs so that the substitute decision-maker is empowered to participate in the health care consent process, if required. The substitute decision-maker makes decisions based on their understanding of the person’s wishes, or, if these are unknown or not applicable, makes choices that are consistent with the person’s known values and beliefs and in their best interests.
The Ontario Health Care Consent Act outlines a hierarchical list of people who would automatically be considered a substitute decision-maker when a person is incapable of making decisions about their own care.If a person is not satisfied with their automatic substitute decision-maker, they can formally appoint someone else to be their substitute decision-maker using a “Power of Attorney for Personal Care.” A “Power of Attorney for Personal Care” is a legal document in which one person gives another person the authority to make personal care decisions on their behalf if they become incapable.
Under Ontario’s Health Care Consent Act, a person is capable with respect to a health care decision if they have the ability to understand the information that is needed to make a decision and have the ability to appreciate the consequences of the decision or lack of decision. Capacity is issue- or task-specific. A person’s specific capacity to understand information and appreciate the decisions that must be made should be respected so that their mental capacity for a specific health care decision is recognized. A person may be capable with respect to making some health care decisions, but incapable with respect to others. If a person is incapable with respect to making a health care decision, the substitute decision-maker can give or refuse consent on the person’s behalf.
In this quality standard, the term “health care professional” refers to regulated professionals, such as nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, physicians, physiotherapists, psychologists, occupational therapists, social workers, and speech-language pathologists. We use the term “provider” when we are also including people in unregulated professions, such as administrative staff, behavioural support workers, personal support workers, recreational staff, and spiritual care staff.
This quality standard includes statements that refer specifically to people living with dementia and people living with mild cognitive impairment:
Dementia is defined as a chronic and progressive decline in cognitive ability that interferes with daily functioning. Signs and symptoms of dementia include changes to memory, reasoning and judgment, language and communication abilities, mood and behaviour, problem-solving ability, and orientation. These may affect a person’s ability to work, live independently, and manage relationships.
Mild cognitive impairment is defined as a decline in memory, judgement, thinking, or language that is greater than the cognitive changes associated with aging and that does not interfere notably with activities of daily living. While mild cognitive impairment is not a diagnosis of dementia, people with this condition are at greater risk of developing dementia.
Of note, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) uses the term mild neurocognitive disorder and major neurocognitive disorder, and together these terms include both mild cognitive impairment and dementia.