Info sessions and 50/50 draw mark World Alzheimer’s Month in district

Ken Kellar

Despite a strange and unusual year, there are still plans to recognize an important month here in the Rainy River District.
September marks World Alzheimer’s Month, and the Alzheimer Society of Kenora-Rainy River Districts is inviting people to take part in raising awareness and challenging the stigmas surrounding dementia. They can to this by taking part in virtual information sessions, and by visiting your local Alzheimer Society representative.
Mary O’Connor is the Alzheimer Society of Kenora-Rainy River Districts’ client services coordinator for Fort Frances and said there are a handful of ways people in town can take part in the Awareness month, and the first way is likely something everyone can do right now.
“What we’re suggesting is people wear blue,” she said. “Because that’s the Alzheimer’s colour, for the month.”
Apart from clothing however, O’Connor explained that due to COVID and gathering restrictions, the society is holding a number of information sessions for members of the public, as well as more specialized sessions for those living with dementia or their family members or caregivers.
The first of these sessions took place on Monday, which O’Connor explained was a bit of a big picture look at just who the Alzheimer Society is.
“I’m doing a Zoom presentation as an overview of our programs and services,” she said.
“I don’t think people realize all of the different things that we offer. I’ve broken my presentation down into the things we offer specifically to our people with dementia, which would be like our minds in motion, and under that is everything we do for our clients. We have a weekly get-together group, we do arts and crafts and music, and then of course we have the touch quilts and the music project, all these things. So I’ve broken [my presentation] down to people with dementia, care partners or family members, anybody who’s connected with it, and then professionals and then everything that’s open to every single person in the country.”
Monday also marked World Alzheimer’s Awareness Day, an initiative of Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), where ADI calls for “financial support to produce and distribute World Alzheimer’s Day materials around the world, enabling members to organize events in their different countries,” according to their website. ADI also distributes their World Alzheimer Report each year on World Alzheimer’s Awareness Day.
Closer to home, O’Connor noted that more events to recognize World Alzheimer’s Month would take place on Friday, both online and in-person.
“Open to the public on Friday we have a lot going on,” she said.
“Friday morning, Heidi from Kenora is going to be doing the Zoom meeting, and it’s going to be ‘How to do a referral.’ People think it has to be a professional referral or whatever, but it can be the person themselves who is having issues, or it can be the caregiver. Anybody can make a referral. So she’s giving her talk on Friday morning and then Friday afternoon I’m going to be at Canadian Tire, I’m going to have a table set up and I’ll have information. I’ll have a dropbox for iPods, so if anybody has an iPod they’re not using anymore, if they would bring it down that would be absolutely fabulous.”
The iPods go towards the Society’s music program, which collects old but still functional iPods in order to create personalized playlists for those living with dementia. Music from the earlier years of a person living with dementia has been shown to have a significant impact on their quality of life. In addition to the dropbox O’Connor will have with her on Friday, district residents can also drop off their gently loved iPods at Sight and Sound.
O’Connor also noted that she will have tickets available for the Alzheimer Society’s 50/50 raffle when she is at Canadian Tire to allow for local residents to grab their chance to win.
“That’s one of our fundraisers that we’ve started now and it goes for a long time,” she said.
“But Friday is basically for me to be there and raise awareness.”
While other towns in the area are doing different activities, with Kenora and Dryden both holding drive-in movie nights in recognition of Alzheimer’s Awareness, O’Connor noted that while she tried to organize a larger event here in town, lingering COVID restrictions made it difficult, leading to her decision to make herself available to the public at Canadian Tire.
“I gave serious thought to the library and then I thought it would be fun to do something at the point, but it’s been 100 below,” she said with a laugh.
“So I needed to do something inside, so that’s what I settled on. That’s what I decided and that’s where I’ll be.”
O’Connor said that even as the pandemic continues, those living with dementia or have a loved one who is living with dementia need to know that they haven’t been abandoned or forgotten, which makes World Alzheimer’s Month even more important this year.
“Even though the pandemic is going on, dementia is still progressing in our communities,” she said.
“It’s really important that the caregivers know that I’m there, that if they need something they can just give me a call or give me a shout, and the hardest thing in the beginning is just to reach out for that help. Before people are in a crisis, if they can just reach out and say ‘hey, I need a little extra help,’ that’s why we’re doing all of this this week. We’ve had to modify so much of what we’ve been doing, but we want to make sure, especially during a pandemic, to be out there somewhere and let people know I am around and we are still doing things.”