September is World Alzheimer's Month. Jennifer Harder has been operating the local office for the Alzheimer Society in Portage for a couple of years now, and doubles as North Central regional coordinator. She explains they're spreading the word to let Manitobans know that the Alzheimer Society is their first link to the community of support resources and knowledge.

"It's designed to help them wherever they are in their dementia journey," says Harder

She notes they've encapsulated their overall mission into the name of one of their progams; First Link.

"Physicians, mental health, home care, and other health care professionals can refer someone to the Alzheimer Society. This will get somebody connected to a client support worker right away so that they can get access to valuable resources right off the bat. They're prepared with information to connect clients with us."

Harder says the one-on-one counselling support is incredibly helpful to direct clients to whatever program would best suit them. One of her clients describes how Harder was able to assist him. 

"It's when my wife got dementia, and I was dealing a lot with my family doctor. He sent me a referral to Alzheimer Society to see if they could help me with some of my questions, problems, and how to handle situations. I didn't really do anything about it at first. I was kind of one of those people that doesn't like to go looking for help for everything. I like to figure it out myself, but I couldn't. So, I finally contacted Jenn at Alzheimer's, and she was a great help with the problems I was having."

He says they met and started the counselling. His wife's dementia turned for the worse and became extreme to the point where he couldn't handle her at home anymore.

"At that point, I spent a lot of time talking to her (Harder) just to get rid of the feelings of anguish and helplessness," he adds. "It has been a great help. Excellent. I'd say, anybody that's gone through what I went through, it's a great help."

Harder adds First Link is for anybody who has a family member, friend, or loved one who has dementia, even if it's in the early stages. She says you can either give them a call or talk to your family doctor or other health care professional, and ask about a referral. 


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