It is a diagnosis seen by most as the beginning of the end of the joy found in one’s daily life. It can cause fear, discouragement and dark thoughts of the challenges that lie ahead.

The term Alzheimer’s disease is one that bears a distinct dread to it.

While the person affected by it may not eventually feel its full and final impact and how it erases their memory and the ability to function, those close to the person will become very much aware of how the person they once knew soon has little or no memory of their life.

Shawna Gillis, a navigator at the Alzheimer Society of Alberta and Northwest Territories, said often when people call the Yellowknife chapter, there is apprehension and many questions about what type of supports are available, both for those with the disease and those who are deemed caregivers.

“We work as navigators to help them with the supports that are available in the community and our care partner support groups at the Society,” Gillis said. “The in-person support we offer is currently localized here in Yellowknife, but we offer support all across the territory by telephone, email or online hybrid options that provide support.”

Gillis said often they will connect a first-time caller with the First Link early intervention program that provides an introduction to support and services offered.

She said they also offer a monthly care partner support group at the Baker Centre for people caring for or living with cognitive impairment or dementia.

After the initial contact with the Society, Gillis said they will provide information on what the next steps are and who to contact.

She said that the Alzheimer’s Society is also for people with dementia, Lewy body dementia or other types of cognitive impairment.

She also said people will take comfort in the fact that the society is there for them and following up with them to ensure they have the support they need.

“It’s really life-changing for them,” she said. “It can be a full-time (role) for the caregiver.”

In the Alzheimer Society of Canada’s report on dementia, Navigating the Path Forward for Dementia in Canada: The Landmark Study Report #1 (2022), it is estimated that by 2030, close to one million Canadians will be living with dementia and there will be 187,000 new cases per year – 21 people every hour.

By 2050, more than 1.7 million Canadians are expected to have dementia, while more than 1 million people will become caregivers of those with the disease.

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