Dementia Network Calgary has one key goal — to make Calgary a supportive, innovative environment where people impacted by dementia can live life well.
The timing couldn’t be better. In 2016, more than 564,000 Canadians were living with dementia, and by 2031 that number is expected to rise to 937,000.
Since 2013, the network has worked to address this difficult, community-based concern, explains Barb Ferguson, executive director of the Alzheimer Society of Calgary, which is the backbone organization for the network and provides a coordinating and organizing role for the group.
Composed of a growing group of committed citizens from all sectors (public, private, non-profit, patients and families), the network uses a collaborative approach to tackle the disease from all sides.
To date, the network built a strategy roadmap that illustrates the steps necessary to reach its goal. It did so on a limited budget with support provided by the Calgary Foundation, United Way of Calgary and Area, and Flames Foundation for Life.
Small action-orientated groups were created to address those steps, such as public awareness and advocacy, best practises for staff, helping families navigate complex support and treatment systems, and support for individuals in order to stay in their own homes and communities for as long as possible.
The network offers free online tools to help communicate with people with dementia and reduce social isolation. It is exploring how technology can help people stay at home safely and is examining ways to provide more seamless services.
The network also acts as a hub for information, resources and activities. It shares updates on other successful community initiatives through its newsletter and website. Examples of those successes include the Glencoe Club’s education speaker series on dementia and the Brenda Strafford Foundation’s Dementia Friendly Community Proof of Concept project, the first of its kind in Alberta and taking place in Westhills and Okotoks.
Spreading the word about research, services and the profound impact of dementia in our neighbourhoods (each person living with dementia directly impacts 10 to 12 others) is part of an overarching approach to reduce stigma and increase social inclusion for people living with dementia, as well as their families.
The network’s first public gathering took place this past May and hosted more than 130 people for a robust discussion about dementia. Look for more of these opportunities to keep the community informed.
“Dementia is an emerging, societal issue,” adds Ferguson, “and no single organization will be able to address it. Working collectively and communicating well will be vitally important.” [ ]