by Jo Barnes –
You don’t have to go through it alone.
For those dealing with dementia and for their caregivers, it can be a challenging and often isolating journey, but the Alzheimer Society of B.C. offers support groups and services that lighten that load. Since 1981 the society has been accomplishing its work through numerous volunteers who give of their time, skills and lives to make a difference.
“There are over 70,000 people in B.C. diagnosed with dementia and we can’t reach everyone by ourselves. Our volunteers are an incredibly important resource and a way to get our mandate accomplished,” says Gabriela Townsend, Support and Education Coordinator, Alzheimer Resource Center Victoria.
Telephone contact through First Link® dementia support allows individuals and their families referred by health care professionals to connect with the Alzheimer Society, to get information and support for everything from communication strategies to information about the health care system.
Support and education for those dealing with dementia is offered through a variety of ways. Minds in Motion®, hosted by local senior and recreation centres, features chair exercise, games, puzzles and social activities. A support group for people in the early stages of dementia offers a place to share feelings and learn about the condition and ways to cope. Family caring for those with dementia can find support through Family Caregiver Support Groups. Here they can exchange tips, get current information and connect with others with similar experiences. These groups are a vital resource for an ever-increasing segment of the population nowadays.
“There has been an increase in numbers for Caregivers Groups over recent times,” says Gabriela. “There are waitlists especially for adult children who are supporting parents with dementia.”
Support and education hinges on trained capable volunteers. It’s challenging but rewarding work. “Volunteers gain incredible skills and experience,” shares Gabriela. “They like to feel useful, contribute to society, and feel part of a team.”
Whether it’s phone calls, workshops or groups, the Alzheimer Society does vital work in our communities.
“People arrive feeling very alone in their journey. It’s wonderful to see them flourish,” says Jules Bodenham, Caregivers Group Facilitator. “The Society is a life raft.”
Currently support group facilitators and Minds in Motion® volunteers are needed for Sidney and West Shore areas. Are you interested? Extensive knowledge of dementia isn’t necessary: just compassion, good interpersonal skills and a willingness to learn and practice active listening. The Society offers excellent training; the experience is invaluable.
“My mother had Alzheimer’s (disease). I’ve been there,” shares volunteer Ellen Gallacher. “When I’ve made someone smile, it makes me feel good.”
That’s right Ellen. It’s not only gratifying for those who volunteer, but it helps people know they don’t have to go through this alone.