The “Forget Me Not” charitable dinner for the local Alzheimer Society on Saturday evening at La Place Rendez-Vous here was a success, bringing in $5,000 to help continue free programs and services for district residents.
This tops last year's total of $4,250.
“We are here to help,” Rossana Tomashowski, executive director of the Alzheimer Society of Kenora-Rainy River Districts, told the crowd of 84 people in attendance, many of them caregivers of those with dementia.
She noted local Client Services co-ordinator Mary O'Connor has been extremely busy helping the many clients in need of the Alzheimer Society's services.
Since April 1, 2017, for instance, the Alzheimer Society has made 887 “First Link” visits.
“First Link” is a referral program designed to help newly-diagnosed people with dementia get the help they need as soon as possible.
It helps to assist physicians, as well as health and community service providers, to connect people living with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, and their families, to the Alzheimer Society.
Alzheimer Society staff, in turn, link them to various services and programs to help them.
Since last April, the local Alzheimer Society has held 72 public education and fundraising sessions. Through those events, staff made “First Link” contacts with 4,352 individuals.
But these success stories also show the need for continued support of the local Alzheimer Society.
“Do we have the expertise, the knowledge, to do what we do? Yes,” Tomashowski noted.
"Do we have the capacity to serve the people? No, because we are underfunded.
“That's why we have to much fundraising to provide free programs and services,” she stressed.
“Your contribution tonight, and towards our other fundraising initiatives, helps the society, and therefore we thank each and every one of you,” Tomashowski said.
The Alzheimer Society also is striving to reduce the stigma that surrounds Canadians living with dementia.
“Discrimination is one of the barriers to enjoying meaningful and productive lives,” Tomashowski remarked.
“Stigma, stereotypes, and misconceptions often prevent people from being open about their symptoms or asking for help.”
A recent survey by the Alzheimer Society found that awareness about dementia has increased, but stigma and negative attitudes about it continue to persist.
It also found that one-in-four Canadians would feel ashamed or embarrassed if they had dementia.
In November, 2016, the standing Senate Committee of Social Affairs, Science and Technology tabled a report entitled, “Dementia in Canada: A National Strategy for Dementia-Friendly Communities.”
The report made 29 recommendations aimed at helping the growing number of Canadians who have, or will develop, some form of dementia, as well as those who will care for them.
Together with the passage of Bill 233 (The National Strategy for Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementia Act) in June, 2016, dementia has been elevated to a national priority.
This strategy will strengthen research, build on innovative work already underway, and offer a co-ordinated pan-Canadian approach to care.
'Finding Your Way'
O'Connor, meanwhile, spoke about the “Finding Your Way" program, which she spent much of last month promoting as part of "Alzheimer Awareness Month.”
She urged everyone with a loved one with dementia to get a “Finding Your Way” pamphlet and fill it out with information on that person, including putting a recent photo in it.
This is so that if the individual with dementia goes missing, the pamphlet—which you can hang on the side of your fridge so you know where it is if you need it—can be given to the police, making it much easier to identify the missing person.
For those who would like a “Finding Your Way” kit, or to get more information, contact O'Connor at 276-9105
There's also a free online learning course, where people can learn to help those with dementia live safely in their communities and also learn how to interact with someone who might be lost.
There are four course modules that may be taken at any time, in any order. The course is available in both English and French.
To take the course, visit findingyourwayontario.ca/online-learning
O'Connor also is available throughout the year to make presentations on the variety of topics.
These range from the top 10 warning signs of dementia to how to visit with someone who has dementia to how to care for someone with dementia who is dying, to name a few.
O'Connor also interacts personally with families and caregivers of those with dementia, and currently has abut 90 clients in Rainy River District.
To arrange for a presentation or a visit, call her at 276-9105.
Guest speaker Dr. Barry Campbell, the medical director of geriatric psychiatry for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, an associate professor at the University of Manitoba, and a board member of the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba, was unable to make it to Saturday's dinner due to illness.
In addition to a tasty meal, the evening featured door prizes, a penny auction, and live entertainment by local duo “Entyrely Mac.”
Johnathan Price of 93.1 The Border once again was emcee for the event.