Mental health program for seniors opens

Seniors coping with dementia, depression, and substance abuse in Rainy River District now have a new place to turn to with the opening of the District Mental Health Services for Older Adults.
The program, run under the Fort Frances Mental Health Association, officially opened its doors to the public Tuesday. It will serve seniors from Kenora and Dryden to Atikokan and Red Lake.
“We help older adults with mental illness suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s, substance abuse, depression, and anxiety,” noted Sandy Skirten, district co-ordinator for the program.
The program offers counselling, assessment, and treatment related to dementia, therapy, and screenings for long-term care facilities for local residents aged 60 and older.
In addition to offering these services in Fort Frances and Rainy River District, they also run a support program for caregivers.
“It’s an opportunity simply for caregivers to get a much-needed break,” Skirten explained. “The service is free and we try to schedule relief on an ongoing basis.”
For instance, if a caregiver meets the program’s criteria and wishes to attend a weekly social event, they could book a relief worker for that time.
“The program has been really well-received. Caregivers and their families that we’ve spoken to are very excited about it,” Skirten said.
Rainycrest Home for the Aged here currently provides the relief service on behalf of the program, but Skirten said they will have their own workers in place starting in June.
Skirten also is proud the program will be bringing a geriatric psychiatrist to the area on a rotating basis. Dr. David Conn, head of the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care in Toronto, will be working with the program to address any concerns from or about patrons.
“We’re very excited about this. It is very difficult to access psychiatric services throughout the district, particularly geriatric psychiatry,” Skirten noted.
This program of the Canadian Mental Health Association has been in the works for almost two years.
“It’s really a needed service not only for Fort Frances but the whole Kenora-Rainy River area,” Skirten stressed. “In the next 10-15 years, the number of [seniors] will triple here.”

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