Alzheimer’s Groupe opens in West Island

There is good news for West Island residents who have symptoms of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, their families, and caregivers: Alzheimer’s Groupe Inc. (AGI), the not-for-profit group that offers guidance, education and training, is opening new offices this month at 72A Brunswick Blvd. in Dollard-des-Ormeaux to extend the work it has been doing for over 25 years in Côte-Saint-Luc.

“We are thrilled to be doing this and it will make a huge difference in the lives of so many,” said executive director Linda Israel.

The group operates on a budget of $1.2 million, mainly from family foundations, fund-raisers, and individual donors, with some support from the Quebec government. The new offices respond to a need, Israel explained, because “there is nothing on the West Island similar to what we do. We are focused solely on support services.”

The need is there in part because the population of the West Island, which 20 years ago was quite young, is aging and that is the demographic most affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia.

It took several years to make the project a reality, mainly because necessary resources had to be set aside and accumulated. The project is getting some financial support from L’Appui, the Quebec government agency that grants funds to support friends and family that provide care for older adults. AGI is not involved in research, but staff members do dispense information and guidance as to where families can go for detection and treatment.

While there has been a lot of research and better understanding of Alzheimer’s and dementia, “until there is a known cause and a known cure, the real help that people can derive is through support programs,” Israel said.

AGI’s support includes education, training, and especially respite-care for caregivers, which usually is “a 24/7 job.”

Being able to bring a loved one to centres like the ones AGI operates so caregivers can get a few hours of relief on a regular basis is crucial to avoid burnout.

“Caregiver jobs can be lonely and isolating and, when it’s 24/7, fatiguing,” Israel said. The new facility covers 3,300 square feet, with room for offices, an activity centre, and boardroom. Operations are expected to begin in mid-December. The activity centre, for people with dementia, will not be fully functional until January in order to assess potential participants.

“It’s not a drop-in centre,” she noted, adding that it depends on the stage the individual has reached. There is a nominal fee of up to $20 for the day for some of the programs, such as training session, but those who cannot afford it are not required to pay. A lot of referrals come from the CLSC. Lectures are free and open to the public. AGI staff will also train professionals who work in residences.

“We serve all caregivers for training and education. We have individual and family counseling and support groups.

The activity center is open to all. According to AGI, 141,000 Quebecers are living with dementia, and projections are that given the aging population, the number of Canadians with dementia, now estimated at half a million, is expected to double by 2031.

Among its initiatives, AGI sponsors a support group for early onset dementia, affecting those under 65, a safety net mentorship program for family caregivers, and sessions that link generations though songs. Families and individuals who are interested in AGI services should call 514-485-7233.

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