The Early Stages

The Early Stages

Contributing Editor

People can live full lives, especially in the initial stages of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

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“Living with dementia doesn’t mean every day is a misery,” says Mary Schulz, director of education for the Alzheimer Society of Canada. “There’s a lot that can be done to manage the disease, from medication to healthy lifestyle changes and being involved in clinical trials. Even if they can’t achieve a cure, they can sometimes improve day to day living.”

Sheryl Persoon’s mother Patricia was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s two years ago. But she still lives in a basement suite in Persoon’s Coquitlam, B.C., home and remains relatively independent.

She goes to a weekly program called “Minds in Motion” (to exercise her body and her brain). And she takes the Sky Train to visit another daughter in Vancouver, although someone has to meet her on arrival.

Patricia needs reminders when it’s garbage day and her pharmacist provides her pills in a blister pack so Persoon can make sure she’s taking them. But although Patricia sometimes gets up in arms about her children “taking away her independence” and threatens to “move to another country,” says Persoon, “she’s mostly fairly content.”

Community Resources

First Link: The ASC provides an excellent first contact for the newly diagnosed, particularly if there’s a First Link program in your area. First Link aims to help people with Alzheimer’s disease get the support, education and services they need for the duration of the disease.

Among other things, First Link counsellors can refer you to caregiver or patient support programs, offer information about drugs and other treatment regimens and sometimes provide news about clinical trials and promising research. Generally, your doctor will ask if he can pass your name on to First Link so that someone can call you, says Dr. Larry Chambers, scientific advisor for the ASC.

Keep in mind, however, that First Link is not available in all cities and regions across Canada. You’ll find more details about the program here. You can also call your provincial Alzheimer Society office to find out about local First Link programs (for a list of numbers), or Google “First Link” along with the name of your city or region.

MedicAlert Safely Home: This program ensures that if someone with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia gets lost, they can be safely returned home. They wear an ID bracelet engraved with critical medical information and a 24-hour hotline number that can supply an address and/or connections with emergency responders. The cost is $60 per year. For more details, click here.

Your neighborhood pharmacist: Apart from watching out for possible drug interactions, your pharmacist can provide medication in dosettes or blister packs, enabling you to check easily on whether someone with AD or dementia is taking medication regularly.

Transit services: Toronto has Wheel-Trans. Vancouver has handyDART. Most larger centres have their own version of this service that will pick up and drop off people who are physically handicapped for doctor’s appointments and other engagements.

Help with dementia and Alzheimer’s management or decisions: Saint Elizabeth (a home care provider) offers AskElizabeth at 1-877-787-7432 and has a live chat at

Next: Your Doctor’s Role

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Camilla Cornell

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