Alzheimer Groupe offers aid for caregivers, people with early onset

A visit to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts with AGI.

A visit to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts with AGI.

In the near future we may all have to face the challenge of living with dementia or Alzheimer’s, or see a loved one trying to cope. As the condition progresses, we will need help.

That’s when non-profit agencies like the Alzheimer Groupe Inc. (AGI) become essential.

AGI aims to enhance the lives of persons affected by Alzheimer’s and related dementia, including their caregivers and families. “When a physician diagnoses patients as having Alzheimer’s, they and their families will need help – information and referral – to guide them through the healthcare system,” says Susan Hutt, AGI’s communications coordinator.

AGI offers one-on-one consultations for individuals and families after a diagnosis and holds lectures and conferences to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s.

They work with individuals and families at AGI’s offices and activities centre at 5555 Westminster, suite 304, in Côte Saint Luc.

“Even people who suspect they have a mild cognitive disorder are welcome to come and talk to us,” Hutt adds.

Financing comes from foundations, families, and fund raising events, with some government support.

AIG has launched two new and “extremely important” programs, which Hutt says are “firsts in Quebec and Canada, as far as we know.”

The Safety Net Program is a mentorship program that pairs volunteer mentors with caregivers to help them navigate the healthcare system, outline available resources, and explain what to expect when someone has dementia. This is a free peer-to-peer program lasting from a few weeks to a year, depending on what the caregiver feels is appropriate.

“It’s great to have a mentor who can say, ‘I’ve been through this, here’s what I’ve gone through, and I can help you.’ The mentors are caregivers who understand the disease,” Hutt emphasizes. “Just call us, and we will find someone among our pool of mentors who is the most compatible.”

The new Young Onset Dementia Social Group will serve those who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia before they are 65.

“They have a particular set of needs, and they do not necessarily socialize very well with those who are 70 or 80,” Hutt notes.

The program offers basketball, badminton, light fitness and art activities and is run out of the community centre at St. Raymond’s Roman Catholic Church at 5765 St. Jacques in NDG. Outings include bowling, museum visits, community work, and gardening. Participants also receive information about the disease and opportunities to share experiences.

“The activities are geared to a younger demographic – most of the participants now are in their mid-50s or early 60s. We put this together as a social group because these people share the same diagnosis. They know what they’re going through.

“There’s an importance to this socialization: they don’t feel ostracized or forced to fit into a world with people who don’t have this.

“Being with others who are living with the same issues can contribute to a person’s wellbeing,” Hutt points out. “Dementia is a special world. People can get cut off — they can lose family and friends.”

Participants bring their own lunch. To take part, call co-coordinator Maude Robitaille, 514-485-7233.

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