Workshops planned to help those in early stages of dementia

Ken Kellar

Alzheimer doesn’t take time off during a global pandemic, and neither does the Alzheimer Society.
Alzheimer Society of Kenora-Rainy River Districts client services co-ordinator Mary O’Connor shared that the society will be offering one of its learning series to people who are beginning to experience the first stages of Alzheimers and dementia, as well as those who care for them.
“We are starting our learning series ‘Before the earliest stages,’” O’Connor said.
“That is going to be starting the end of September. We’re doing it a little different this time, and it’s going to be through Zoom. it’s called ‘First Steps, Next Steps’ and it’s for people who are in the early stages of dementia that want some more education about what’s coming up, and for the caregiver. Sometimes the caregivers are saying ‘no I just want it to be me’ but there are people with dementia that live alone that want to come and learn too, so we open it up to everybody, this one.”
O’Connor explained that the series is a four-week course with two different sessions that will each meet once a week. The first session will take place Tuesday afternoons from 1:30 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. on September 29, October 6, 13 and 20. The second session will run from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. on Thursday evenings from 1 through to October 22. Each session will feature the same content and is intended to offer both an early time slot as well as a later time slot for those who have work commitments.
“So many people are working and say ‘I can’t come because I’m working’ but because we’re offering it through Zoom, we’ve decided to open it up to everybody in the Kenora-Rainy River District. So there may only be a few from Fort, maybe a few in Kenora, a few in Dryden or Sioux Lookout or Red Lake or Rainy River, it really doesn’t matter because it’s virtual, everybody is invited.”
Like a majority of the programs offered through the Alzheimer Society, the learning series is free and will only be offered to those living with dementia and their families or caregivers. O’Connor explained that each week of the series builds on information presented the week prior, so getting in early is a must for those taking part.
“The first week is two hours of ‘what is dementia?’” she said.
“That’s all we talk about. The second week we talk about adapting to brain changes, the physical changes going on in the brain and I have a pharmacist that comes in and is talking about medication. The third week is planning ahead and that’s where you talk about powers of attorneys, personal care and property. We talked about how to have that very difficult conversation with your loved one, we talk about capacity and consent and what that means.”
The last week of the program focuses on different supports in the community, and O’Connor said she plans to invite different community partners like CMHA to speak on different aspects of life with dementia.
“We have the OPP to talk about wandering and when it’s time to stop driving,” she noted.
“Because a lot of our people are still driving in the early stages. We’re talking about the early stages [of dementia], so they’re still out and about. We have respite coming this time as well, Wesway, which is a respite organization, and they will come and give a talk both days. We have a lot of really good information, and for anybody who’s at the early stages and just not sure what to do, this is a really good education for families.”
In addition to the learning series, O’Connor said she’ll also be offering a program that is aimed at caregivers for those living with dementia titled “You First for Care Partners,” which is about as new as a program can be.
“There hasn’t been a single course offered across Ontario yet, we went to training on Tuesday,” O’Connor said.
“Everybody is brand new, and there are two people in our office who offer it, and so we will work together to offer that for our care partners, the caregivers, ones who have family members. Our only professional education that I did was “You First for Frontline Staff” and that one was a geriatric certified course and there was a fee associated with it, the only thing I offer that has a fee associated with it. Care partners said ‘this is really good, we want to do this’ so the Alzheimer’s Society has modified it.”
For more information about these or any of the other programs that are offered by the Alzheimer Society of Kenora-Rainy River Districts, visit their website at or call the office at 807-468-1516.