Literature review examines the roles and contributions of community health workers (CHWs) in improving dementia care.
With the steady increase of dementia, there is a crucial need for timely diagnosis, education, and access to dementia-related services, especially for marginalized communities. Delayed diagnosis and inadequate access to dementia-related services can exacerbate health disparities and drive inequitable health outcomes. The CHW model has proven to be cost-effective and successful in improving outcomes related to health care utilization and connections to health-related social services, but there is limited evidence on the roles and effectiveness of CHWs in addressing dementia. This review examines how CHWs are used in community-based dementia programs and interventions across the world.
CHW roles within dementia programs and interventions often fall into the following areas: educational and community awareness, screening for dementia, screening for HIV-associated dementia, use of health care systems and dementia-related resources, and services to dementia caregivers. Of the 10 studies included in this qualitative analysis, nine indicated positive outcomes for individuals receiving CHW-led dementia-related services in low-income and underresourced communities.
CHWs are uniquely positioned to provide cost-effective and impactful dementia-related services through appropriate training and connections to their communities. More specifically, their work around increasing educational and community awareness, screening for dementia, and use of health care services and related social resources can be particularly helpful in reducing health disparities and improving health outcomes among community members living with or at risk of developing dementia.