Alzheimer’s Society has big plans for new centre in Montreal

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Montreal’s Alzheimer’s Society is now in a position to offer expanded multidisciplinary services from its new centre at 4505 Notre Dame St. W. in St. Henri.

The two-storey brick building, which opened officially last month, was purchased at a cost of $1.7 million, but renovation work is continuing on a first phase of upgrades.

Including initial improvements, the new centre will have cost $2.5 million, executive director Gérald Hubert said in an interview. Work on the basement to house a permanent respite and activities centre will bring the total to about $3 million. A fund-raising drive is being organized to finance that work.

It will serve as a drop-in centre to enable caregivers to get respite time. Once it’s operational, caregivers can bring in the person with Alzheimer’s to spend some time and engage in activities, while the caregivers get some personal time off.

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia. With longer life expectancy, it is estimated, based on global statistics for Alzheimer’s prevalence in Canada, that as many as 33,000 Montrealers will experience some form of dementia. That number is expected to double within the next 20 years.

The new building, replacing rented premises on Sherbrooke W., offers “an enormous potential for growth,” Hubert said.

It covers 12,000 sq. ft., including the basement. It provides office space for healthcare workers and professionals, students, and volunteers, an information centre, support services, and administrative staff.

The society offers information, referral, group activities, cognitive stimulation, and art therapy. Individuals will already have received a diagnosis of their condition from health-care professionals.

Most importantly, it offers respite time for caregivers, a break from the demands of helping someone with Alzheimer’s deal with daily life. For now, however, respite services are offered mainly on Saturdays at three points on Montreal island.

“Demand for services is growing exponentially,” Hubert noted.

Respite services for families are offered in French, English, and Italian now on Saturdays in Montreal North, at the Centre Berthiaume du Tremblay, 1635 Gouin Blvd. E.; in Notre dame de Grâce, at Centre Henri-Bradet, 6465 Chester; and the CHSLD Bussey at 2069 St. Joseph Blvd. in Lachine.

“Respite enables caregivers to go to the hairdresser, go shopping, sleep – it’s absolutely essential,” Hubert observed.

At the new premises, the centre will continue to offer intake referral, where professionals will identify the extent of dementia and suggest ways to deal with it.

“We may refer families to services that are available in their milieu,” he said.

The society also assigns counselors to meet with families who believe one of its members is showing signs of dementia, either in a regional office or at home.

There is no cost for consultations. The society also organizes eight-week support groups, with weekly meetings of 2.5 hours per session, that covers all aspects of living with and caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. The cost is $50.

“But we will offer help to all, even those who cannot afford to spend any money.

“Demand outstrips supply, but for operations we are getting a recurring grant from the ministry of health and social services of $70,000 a year.”

The annual operations budget for the society is $1.7 million.

A grant of $400,000 to assist caregivers, which the society will continue to receive for another two years, has come from the Lucie and André Chagnon Foundation.

“Health and Social Services, for better or for worse, takes care of the person who becomes sick. But there is nothing much for the caregiver.

“Often the caregiver will become exhausted, and get sick … This exacerbates problems for the health network.”

To contact the Alzheimer’s Society, call 514-369-0800.

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