by Heidi Riley
More than 2,700 Islanders are living with dementia, and they are often being cared for by family members and friends, who are also very much affected by the disease.
“Dementia is not a mental illness, and it is not a part of normal aging,” says Jaime Constable, CEO of ASPEI. “It is not something a person can control, and it is not the same for every person.”
ASPEI is a provincial organization and is part of the national federation of Alzheimer Societies. They work together to alleviate the personal and social consequences of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. They also work to promote the search for the cause and a cure, funding research across the country.
“Ultimately, we would like to see a world without Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and we are very much hoping for a cure.”
Jaime listed some of the more than 80 sub-types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, lewy-body dementia, vascular dementia, and frontotemporal dementia.
Symptoms include memory loss, changes in day-to-day abilities, difficulty performing familiar tasks, issues with speaking and comprehension, and changes in abstract thinking. In the middle to later stages of the disease, there may be mood and behaviour changes, personality changes, and a loss of initiative or drive.
At the ASPEI office in Charlottetown, staff include a Manager of Programs and Services, Administrative Assistant, Marketing and Communications Coordinator, and the CEO. There are Support Service Coordinators located in O’Leary and Montague who provide programs and services to families in rural areas, and there is a Dementia Care Educator based out of Summerside.
“There are lots of opportunities for volunteers to participate in projects headed by staff,” says Jaime.
The First Link program provides caregiver support groups led by a volunteer or staff person who helps work through day-to-day issues around providing care, as well as end-of-life and bereavement. They also offer one-on-one counselling and support throughout the disease journey and follow up regularly with families to provide supportive counselling. They meet with families to discuss a plan of care, steps to take, and provide resources and education.
Volunteer Companion program – volunteers are trained to visit the home and be a companion for a person with dementia for two hours a week. The volunteer provides an opportunity for conversation, companionship, participation in activities, cognitive stimulation, and offers a break for the family caregiver.
Dementia Care Training program offers certification in dementia care. Healthcare providers are trained in best practices in dementia care.
Wellness Connect and Care program includes walking groups for seniors, which improve brain and heart health, reduce the risk of developing dementia, and improve outcomes for those who already have a brain illness. There are also social activities, which aim to reduce isolation for seniors and improve their physical and mental wellbeing. There are opportunities for volunteers to help coordinate those activities.
More volunteer opportunities
- In-office volunteer and events and fundraising: help with mail, data entry, answering the phone, social media and technology, and helping to coordinate, plan, organize and support events and fundraisers.
- Human services and working with clients directly: make check-in phone calls to families, facilitate a support group, or become trained as a volunteer companion and make friendly visits with people living with dementia.
- Leadership opportunities: facilitate education sessions to raise awareness about prevention, recognizing, or living better with dementia, leading a weekly walking group for seniors, organize, lead, or host social activities related to arts, music, storytelling, comedy, and more.
All volunteers receive training and ongoing mentoring and support.
How to volunteer
Apply online and fill in an application. Provide your resumé, references and ID. Applicants have a brief interview with the coordinator to discuss opportunities and interests. Because you will be working with a vulnerable population, a police record check is also needed, and you must sign a confidentiality agreement to protect clients’ information.
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