Local community leaders are looking to help Campbell River become a more compassionate and supportive place for both those suffering dementia and their caretakers.
The Community Dementia Awareness Project is an initiative led by the Campbell River Seniors Network, with support from city staff and Volunteer Campbell River. The project started with demographics in mind, as the local ‘aging’ (75+) population is expected to double in the next 20 years, said Mary Catherine Williams, Volunteer Campbell River executive director.
The first step was a planning project that launched about a year and a half ago, which is now complete. It was funded by a $5,000 grant to the city from BC Healthy Communities Society.
People with lived experience caring for family members were asked about the challenges they faced and how their situation could be improved.
“Basically, what we found out was that a lot of people know that dementia exists, but they don’t really understand it,” said Williams. “They don’t know what the early presentation signs of dementia or what to do if they suspect someone has dementia or Alzheimer’s.”
Addressing that latter gap is important because early treatment and support can make a difference for the health and well-being of both those affected and their caregivers, she said.
They also examined what other communities are doing to support people with dementia and their caretakers and what can be done to increase awareness.
The results of this planning project were presented to Campbell River city council on Nov. 15. City council agreed to continue having city staff work on the initiative and support future grant applications.
The delegation also asked council to take a leadership role by supporting age-friendly training for all city workers and consider aging and dementia in city planning.
“We all know that getting support in place sooner rather than later will make things better for everyone — that goes across the board for all services,” said Williams. “We just want to do our best to be ahead of the game.”
Coun. Claire Moglove said a report from staff would be first needed for council to consider these additional steps.
The next step for the project is for the group to apply for more funding to implement programming to increase community awareness. This will focus on teaching successful skills and strategies for those caring for or interacting with people with dementia.
“You have to be a different way if you are going to have a positive interaction with someone who has dementia,” she said. “Without the right skills, things can go bad quickly.”
Another add-on piece of the project will be giving caregivers more support, which is currently lacking, she said.
“It’s exhausting for caregivers — just the overwhelming responsibility and toll that it takes.”