Support changes everything for people living with dementia: Society

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January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and the York Region Alzheimer’s Society aims to connect people living with dementia, and their families, with the supports they need so they don’t have to face the journey alone.

Finding support early is key on this journey, they say, and the Society’s First Link program is a great initial step forward.

First Link is a program that provides services and information to people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias about risk reduction, living well with dementia, up-to-date research, referrals, and more. It is about helping individuals and their families manage the many challenges that dementia can present.

“It’s a horrible and difficult disease for anyone, but people do a little better if they connect earlier,” says Andrea Ubell, Director of Programs and Client Services for the York Region Alzheimer’s Society, who has her Headquarters on Edward Street. in Aurora.

Since the program’s inception, Ubell says the number of people who have reached out to get involved has been “steadily increasing,” something he attributes to both more people being diagnosed and more doctors being aware of what the program offers.

“What usually happens when you go to the doctor is that they tell you: ‘You have this disease, here is a number, call him.’ The beauty of First Link is that when the diagnosis is first made in the doctor’s office, families and the person are asked, ‘Would you like us to connect you with the Alzheimer’s Society?’ At that point, they send us a referral and we call them in a week or two, depending on the urgency of the situation, and we also keep in touch with the family.

“In the old days, and it still happens, you would go to a geriatric specialist or get a diagnosis, they may or may not see you again unless there is a problem. Knowledge is power and helps us cope better.”

The program also connects patients and their families with other organizations that provide support, such as CHATS (Community & Home Assistance to Seniors), for people with different needs, including those in the early stages of dementia.

“Part of what the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada is doing is trying to combat some of that stigma,” says Ubell of some of the preconceptions people have about Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. “Unfortunately here in York Region we don’t have a proper memory clinic. People are usually not diagnosed until they are well advanced in the disease. Family doctors are a bit reluctant to give people that diagnosis. Families and the person with the disease, due to the nature of the disease for some people and how it presents, are reluctant or unable to accept it. They don’t seek help and we see them in our emergency rooms at a crisis point.”

Underscoring the importance of making early contact, Ubell recalls a family that became involved with the Society in 1992. A son reached out about his mother’s life with dementia and his family support groups and education classes proved invaluable, and they proved it again when the man’s wife approached them again several years later.

“She was aware enough to see that there were changes in her husband. She was seeing them, she was able to get to a doctor early, diagnose him, give him some medicine, and I would say that during the first years they lived very well with the disease and that is the objective of us trying to reach the families. early,” she says. She “she tells people that they can live well in the early stages of the disease and as the disease progresses, with the right support, families will be able to get through this with support. It is a very difficult hill. call us. That’s the main. Come by and give us a call. There is never a question that is something you shouldn’t ask. If we don’t know the answer, we will find it. It is support, it is educational resources and it is a link to services, be it our service or community services. The healthcare system is really challenging to navigate, even if you work in it, it’s very confusing. If we can help in any way, please don’t delay in calling.”

To connect to support, contact First Link Coordinator, Sara MacLean at 905-726-3477 or For more information, visit

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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