Caring for the aging

Dementia is a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think or make decisions that interfere with everyday activities. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. While dementia mostly affects older adults, it is not considered a normal part of aging.1

Jasmine Hwang is a registered nurse and a clinical instructor pursuing doctoral studies, with her research focusing on gerontological nursing in the management of early dementia with non-pharmacological treatments for seniors.

“I hope that my research will raise awareness for early dementia and systemic issues related to accessing health services,” Jasmine said.

She wants her research to give more insights to nurses and other healthcare practitioners to feel more competent and confident to intervene in cognitive health and help people with getting access to resources.

Jasmine was awarded the Florence and Lloyd Cooper Alberta Registered Nurses Educational Trust (ARNET) Scholarship for the excellence she’s shown in pursuing her research in the management of early dementia. Education advancement and research is one of Calgary Health Foundation’s priority areas in enhancing healthcare for our community.

“I feel very special and honoured to receive the scholarship. It’s especially meaningful for me because I used to go to the donor’s roller skating rink, Lloyds. Although I don’t know them personally, I’m very thankful for their generosity and support for nursing education.”

The scholarship relieved the financial burden for her, allowing her to have an acute focus on her studies as she is a full-time student. She credits the scholarship for alleviating the stress of bills, which allowed her to complete her research proposal, literature review and pass her candidacy examination.

“I feel more responsible to produce high-quality work through the scholarship. The donors showed me the importance of giving and sharing generosity.”

She plans to donate towards nursing education after graduation as she sees the importance of paying it forward.

Jasmine worked in gerontology for seven years before she started her doctoral studies. Her professional interests naturally grew into supporting the health and quality of life of seniors. While working, she witnessed aspects of ageism and wanted to ensure that she was helping create a more inclusive and less prejudiced society, where older adults are better supported.

“We are all aging and older age is something we all enter if we’re lucky enough. I hope when I become an older adult, our health system will be more friendly and supportive of seniors and those people with dementia.”

Dementia typically progresses in three stages. There isn’t a specific age that determines early dementia, but at the early stage, memory concerns become more apparent. People start needing assistance in more complex parts of daily living like managing finances, using transportation, shopping or managing medications. It is estimated between 25 to 50 percent of people with early dementia who are living in the community haven’t received a proper clinical diagnosis.

“There are often many barriers to diagnosis, like ageism. There is a huge stigma and lack of education preparedness for nurses and physicians. There are also long wait-times and an insufficient work force.”

Jasmine emphasizes that early diagnosis and timely management of symptoms are crucial for increasing a patient’s quality of life. She’s seen seniors too often choosing not to use some of the support programs available or experiencing different kinds of access barriers in some cases.

Her goal is to not only continue her research pursuits but also to advocate for gerontology and nursing education among nursing students to show them how fulfilling this type of work can be.

“For older adults to thrive in their community, we need them to age in place. We need to think more about health promotion and illness prevention instead of managing crisis.”

For Jasmine, one of the most rewarding parts of her career is when she can change the attitudes and perspectives of nursing students about working with older adults. She also feels fulfilled when she can make a patient’s life better by connecting them to support programs and services they weren’t aware of before.

1 “About Dementia.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 28 February 2023,,a%20part%20of%20normal%20aging.

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