The Alzheimer Society of Newfoundland and Labrador says there has been a significant increase in demand for its services since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and fundraising is now ongoing to help meet that demand.
Shirley Lucas, the CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, says the number of calls the society receives has increased by 55 per cent over the past few years.
A lot of individuals had difficulties receiving access to services like in-home support programs during the pandemic, which Lucas said has affected the stress levels of those living with dementia and their loved ones.
She also said those with dementia have suffered from not being able to be out in the community interacting with others.
"It's certainly made it much more challenging for the person because obviously their brain is not kept as active as it normally would be," said Lucas.
"It was pretty traumatic on these people, and I would argue that they were one of the greater people who were significantly impacted over the past few years."
Due to pandemic-related restrictions, providing hands-on support has been challenging. But with the return of in-person events, the organization hopes to raise the $60,000 needed to bolster their services and provide help to those who need it most.
"We want to get out there and start connecting with people we haven't been able to in the past two years," said Lucas.
"Lots of people are living this dementia journey and the more we talk about it, the more we create that awareness, the more people that come forward and get the help earlier in their journey."
Fort Amherst Healthcare, which owns three personal care homes in the province, is hosting an event Sunday in conjunction with national Walk for Alzheimer's events to help the Alzheimer Society reach their fundraising goal.
The organization will donate $20 to the Alzheimer Society for every person who walks in the event.
"Many of the residents in our different communities are directly impacted by Alzheimer's and supported by the Alzheimer's society," said Mike Powell, the president of Fort Amherst Healthcare.
"When we spoke with Shirley Lucas and she let us know that they were close to $60,000 behind in fundraising … we knew we really wanted to get involved and really support the cause and try to help them close that gap as much as possible."
Where support is needed most
To help meet the needs of those suffering with dementia, the organization increased their volunteer capacity and moved some of their activities online during the pandemic.
Now, they hope to raise enough money to help fund initiatives like support groups and the "dementia passport," an e-learning program that provides education to health care professionals on how to provide support to people with dementia and help their families.
"We started the program in 2020, and at this particular juncture, we're close to 3,000 people trained," said Lucas.
"[We want] to improve the education to support staff so they have the most up-to-date information and innovative ways to work with families to be able to support the person living with dementia more effectively."
This Sunday's event, which begins at 11 a.m. outside Westbury Estates in St. John's, will include a walk for residents with Alzheimer's, face painting, a barbecue and musical performances.
In addition to raising money, the Alzheimer Society and Fort Amherst Healthcare also want to raise awareness for what they say is an extremely prevalent issue.
"It's really a devastating illness," said Powell.
"I think all of us probably know directly or second degree somebody who's been impacted before by Alzheimer's."