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AS York offers free series for caregivers of individuals with late stage dementia

'We want each caregiver to be heard, know they are doing a fantastic job and to understand that AS York is here to support them every step of the way.'
Free learning series provides information to caregivers looking after people in the later stages of dementia 

There often comes a time when caregivers of people living with dementia realize they need help. 

In the later stages of dementia – whether it’s Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia or one of the 400 other types of dementia that Newmarket residents can be impacted by – caregiving takes an emotional, mental and physical toll.  

The Alzheimer Society of York Region (AS York) offers three programs that help caregivers in the later stages: Care Essentials, geared at people who have been on the journey for a while and are having challenges with behaviours they haven’t experienced before; Options for Care, which looks at the increasing needs of people living with dementia (PLWD) and caregiver needs including in-home options and long-term care decisions; and Care in the Later Stage, which focuses on end-of-life decisions, including maintaining wishes and values of PLWD.  

These three programs are part of the First Link learning series, with the first program, First Steps, helping people learn about the disease including communication and learning about behaviour. All sessions are free. 

Options for Care and Care in the Later Stages are two newer programs at AS York. 

“Dementia does not stop once we discuss the challenges of behaviours,” said Jaime Cruz, the public education coordinator at AS York. “Caregivers need to make future decisions for themselves and their families. We want caregivers to know there are options for them.” 

Care in the Later Stages is a particularly important. 

“We want to provide the opportunity for caregivers to make medical decisions for their family and understand what those choices are. It’s about providing quality of life for PLWD and respecting their wishes.” 

Cruz, who has been teaching people about dementia for more than 20 years, said these education sessions are important to give caregivers a toolbox of strategies. 

Each session talks about a specific topic and while there is material that needs to be covered, questions and discussion are encouraged because “what works for one caregiver might work for someone else. We all talk and we all listen. Everyone can learn something new from someone else who is on the journey. Resources are always provided for the caregivers so they can review all possibilities.”
Cruz said she encourages everyone to take these free sessions. 

“There are always new strategies that are being shared, and as an educator I am learning from caregivers and share their strategies with others whom will benefit. I think the most important thing is that caregivers are aware that there are others that can relate to their experiences and that they are not alone.” 

  • Care Essentials Virtual Education Series, developing skills to support people living with dementia in your life (What to Expect; Communicating Effectively; Responding to Behaviour Changes; Supporting Daily Activities), March 2 to 23, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.; May 5 to 26, 1 to 3 p.m.; June 1 to 22, 1 to 3 p.m. 
  • Options for Care Virtual Education Series, supporting the increasing care needs of PLWD (When Care Needs Are Increasing; Long-Term Care Decisions; Transitioning Care Roles) March 3 to 17, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.; April 8 to 22, 1 to 3 p.m.; May 6 to 20, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. 
  • Care in the Later Stages (Preparing for the Later Stage; Care Strategies, Enhancing Quality of Life, Taking Care of You), April 6 to 20 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.; June 3 to 17, 1 to 3 p.m. 

All these sessions take place over Zoom and are ongoing. Contact Cruz at [email protected] for details and to register. 

“Unfortunately, there is no single suggestion, strategy or answer for the progression of dementia. We offer many strategies to best meet each person’s needs. We want each caregiver to be heard, know they are doing a fantastic job and to understand that AS York is here to support them every step of the way.” 

— Lisa Day is the communications and fund development coordinator for Alzheimer Society of York Region