GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR – New diagnoses can be confusing enough for anyone, but for those affected by cognitive impairments, there is an added layer of stress.
For them and their families, there is a new program starting in February to help guide them through. With a grant of $1,500 from the municipality, staff at Central Health will be running Learning the Ropes, a six-week program for people with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and those who take care of them.
“We were diagnosing a lot of these cases, but not being able to offer our clients any intervention,” said Chelsea Quinlan, a doctoral resident in clinical psychology.
The program is meant to help people with strategies for living at home as long as possible, as well as be a support for caregivers. The focus is on lifestyle changes, memory training and psychosocial support. It has been used successfully in Ontario and Dr. Krista Barney said it has been shown to slow down cognitive decline and stave off dementia.
“There’s really not a whole lot available right now,” she told the Advertiser after a press conference held at town hall Jan. 18. “There’s an Alzheimer’s support group and resources online for Alzheimer’s, but nothing like this.”
Cecilia Hickey is a member of the provincial Advisory Council on Aging and Seniors and said whenever a community shows it cares about older adults and their needs, it’s a good thing.
“I’m very pleased with this program,” she said. “The whole thing is really about early detection – like anything – and there is such a stigma attached to dementia. The more you get it out there, the stronger the referral system, the better.”
Barney said there has already been some public interest in getting involved in the first sessions, set to start at the beginning of next month. The goal is to have between eight and 10 pairs – one client and one caregiver or family member – in each group, with the program meant to restart every six weeks with a new group of participants.
Advocate promises to return soon
Word of the new program came on the heels of two days of activities for senior residents of Grand Falls-Windsor, which kept the new seniors’ advocate for the province, Suzanne Brake, busy.
“This project is a small example of how having an age-friendly community can help everyone, not just seniors,” she said, noting that while the program is of particular interest to older adults, it is meant for anyone suffering MCI, regardless of age.
“It’s a small component in a larger picture.”
Mayor Barry Manuel noted the work done by the project’s proponents to make it happen. He called the project “innovative” and said the benefits could be huge, not just for seniors, but for all residents of Grand Falls-Windsor.
The health authority had hosted a day of activities for seniors Jan. 17 and a meeting between residents and Brake the morning of Jan. 18, but the advocate – whose position was created 10 short weeks ago – said she there is certainly more to talk about.
“We met this morning and I heard a lot of concerns,” she said. “I’ve made a commitment to come back again soon.”
Anyone interested in taking part in Learning the Ropes may call 709-292-2629 or email Chelsea.firstname.lastname@example.org.