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Creating important “First” links

​By the year 2020, it is estimated that a quarter million people in Ontario will suffer from some form of dementia. That's why partnerships between our CCAC and service providers like the Alzheimer Society are so crucial to providing patients and their caregivers with the support they need, both at home and in the community.

Recently, care coordinators and other staff at the CCAC's North Bay and Sudbury branches attended an informative presentation by Diane Windsor, Coordinator of the Alzheimer Society's FirstLink program in Sudbury, which provides patients dealing with dementia that "first link" to the Society's diverse range of programs and services.

Following the presentation, the group had an interactive discussion about how the CCAC and Alzheimer Society teams could work closer together, from assessment and referral to the provision of quality dementia care.

According to Windsor, formerly a nurse manager on the North Bay Regional Health Centre's Complex Care and Dementia units, dementia patients are twice as likely to present to an Emergency Department, and twice as likely to be hospitalized. Through system navigation and education, respite care and other support programs, The Alzheimer Society offers help for both dementia patients and caregivers, currently serving over 5000 people affected by some form of dementia in the Sudbury/North Bay area.

"We are looking to establish collaborative working relationships and increase links and partnerships before the situation becomes even more acute in the North," says Windsor.

CCAC care coordinators Kim Denommee and Gina Charbonneau attended the session.

"I refer patients to The Alzheimer Society programs all the time. It gives me comfort as a care coordinator because I know my caregivers are learning to cope with the behaviours and challenges of dealing with the many changes that will occur. They have excellent programs, some of which are very creative and receive great feedback, like the Music Heals-iPod Music Therapy Program Music Program, and iPod therapy," stated Denommee.

Charbonneau agreed. "As an entry point, programs like First Link are vital. When I suspect that a patient is showing signs of dementia and will need support, I know I can send the referral and count on a cognitive assessment within five days. They are an important part of the circle of care."

Both nurses also cite the close working relationship as valuable when coordinating visits so patients and caregivers are not bombarded with information or overwhelmed by assessments. Based on the discussion, future enhancements to this partnership may include streamlining the intake, assessment and screening processes, and greater information sharing about what services are available, should be offered, or may be in place.   

Diane Windsor is enthusiastic about the response and the possibilities for partnership. "This learning series is a great place to start."

The FirstLink program is currently available in Sudbury and North Bay. For more information, contact Diane Windsor in Sudbury at 705-524-2024 ext.238, or in North Bay, Ashleigh Milne at 705-495-4342 ext.327.