With more than 70,000 British Columbians currently living with Alzheimer’s and dementia, supports are stretching thin.
In the Fraser Valley, it’s a one-person operation with Jude Weir, support and education coordinator, running the show for Chilliwack, Hope, Abbotsford and Mission.
Without the charity of volunteers, Weir is sure the operation wouldn’t be able to continue as is, or, at all.
“Without volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to do the work that we do,” said Weir. “We wouldn’t be able to help the many, many people that we do.
“Volunteers are absolutely invaluable to our team.”
The Alzheimer’s Society of B.C. is in need of volunteer facilitators and co-facilitators to lead support groups in the Chilliwack and Abbotsford regions.
Support groups include those for people recently diagnosed and in the early stages of dementia, as well as for caregivers.
These positions require excellent listening and empathetic skills, and knowledge of dementia, or a willingness to learn.
While some form of caregiving experience would be an asset, it’s not required.
“If you can put yourself in someone else’s situation and just be with them while they’re there, that’s the key,” said Weir.
“It’s about human connection at its core. So many people become isolated when they begin caring for someone with dementia. If you have dementia, to actually be able to sit with other people who have it and be able to talk about the changes you’re going through, it makes all the difference.”
Support groups meet one or two times a month for an hour and a half.
Training is provided, and a one-year commitment is required.
In B.C., an estimated one in 11 people over 65 already live with Alzheimer’s or dementia. That number is projected to double over the next 25 years.
“Demand is growing for support groups and education because more and more of us are getting to that age range where it’s possible that we can get dementia,” said Weir.
For people living with dementia and their caregivers, “this is their lifeline,” said Weir.
For more information, contact Weir at 604-702-4603 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.