Community program

FFPLTC certified by the Dementia-Friendly Community program

The Fort Frances Public Library Technology Center (FFPLTC) is one of the first organizations in the province to benefit from a new Alzheimer Society program that aims to better understand dementia

FFPLTC and CEO Joan MacLean received a certificate recognizing that they completed a support course from Alzheimer Society of Kenora-Rainy River District Client Services Coordinator Mary O’Connor on Wednesday, September 21 2022, which also marked World Alzheimer’s Day. Certificate in hand, the FFPLTC is now better prepared to offer a building and a service that are more accessible to people with dementia, as well as a staff that is better prepared to interact with them in a constructive and supportive manner.

“Across Canada, each province is setting up its own community-based dementia-friendly program,” O’Connor said.

“Here in Ontario, we’re part of the pilot project, so we’re just starting to build dementia-friendly communities. People can participate in two ways; the first way is the dementia-friendly educator, the other, the one the library has made, is the dementia-friendly coach. For a dementia-friendly supporter, they do online modules or bring me in to do things in person, and they also sign a contract with the Alzheimer’s Society that they want 75% of their frontline staff to be trained to dementia. »

O’Connor said the support program can be tailored to the needs or desires of the company or organization taking the course, and part of enrollment is for the company or organization to accept a refresher course or annual update. The Dementia Friendly Educators program, on the other hand, is a unique affair.

O’Connor said the goal of the Dementia Friendly Communities program is to increase the number of dementia educators and supporters in a given community, which in turn will help people with dementia better access the businesses and organizations around them. Using the library as an example, the course not only better prepared FFPLTC staff to interact with and support people with dementia likely to use the library, but it also helped them increase the overall accessibility of the building.

“We look holistically,” O’Connor explained.

“We talk about the background noise level, do the taps have ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ labelling, are the signage at eye level? there’s all of that, and we’re also talking about how the interactions go, what you say, what you do.

MacLean noted that the education provided to staff has been a key part of their involvement, where frontline staff members are now better equipped with knowledge and techniques to better support people with dementia.

“We have staff who are ready to deal with the situations of people who have these types of challenges,” MacLean said.

“I find that with my staff there’s a quicker response of ‘oh, the client must have some sort of mental challenge, or depression or Alzheimer’s, or this or that’, that something is going on there where the answer is it’s not what we expected.

The library is a natural fit for such a pilot program. MacLean pointed out that the library has long been a champion of accessibility in areas such as choosing fonts for better readability of signs and brochures, even large-print books and resources, so making accommodations for people with dementia is not out of the ordinary.

“We’re for everyone in the community,” MacLean said.

“It’s another way of extending our reach to people who think there’s nothing here for them, or people who are arriving and getting older have a harder time interacting with the world. We want to make it as easy as possible for them. »

As the Dementia Friendly Communities project is still in its infancy, O’Connor said she is learning from the experience of the FFPLTC and using it to provide more upstream feedback to help shape and influence the project to better meet the needs of community partners in the future. Limiting the pilot to southern areas of the province would present a biased idea of ​​what communities need, and O’Connor said the Alzheimer Society recognizes this potential pitfall.

“We’ve only just started, so we’re one of the pilot companies doing this,” she said.

“They take all of our feedback and they really want to hear from the North as well, which I think is so important. They have a transit program. What’s it gonna do to us? They don’t understand that. The library is really a calling card for so many people, and I think it’s so important that there is a safe place. That’s what we want to create here.

O’Connor said her goal, not only as a dementia and Alzheimer’s educator, but also as a member of the provincial board implementing these programs, is to reach as many people, d businesses and organizations as possible to continue spreading education and awareness for people living with dementia, as well as making the community a more accessible and welcoming place. To this end, she encourages everyone in the region to reflect on their accessibility status and to mobilize to add dementia awareness and support to the list of services they can provide.

“My goal is to educate everyone,” she explained.

“Whether it’s a retail store, a bank, or anyone in the community. Everyone in the early stages of dementia is in the community, that’s where they are. The sooner community members learn what to say and what to do, the better because the person with dementia is doing the best they can. People here can be lost very easily, and we want to keep the community safe. »

O’Connor said she would like to do two different groups a month during the winter and spring in order to both increase the number of people who are aware of dementia in the community, as well as gather feedback and improve the programs it is offering. Once March arrives, O’Connor said she would send as many comments as possible to the societies and the provincial council for consideration. To that end, all local businesses or organizations are encouraged to contact her to learn more about the Dementia-Friendly Communities program and how to enroll their staff in one of its online or in-person courses.

Fort Frances Public Library Technology Center (FFPLTC) CEO Joan MacLean, center left, receives a certificate from Mary O’Connor, center right, customer services coordinator for the Alzheimer Society of Kenora-Rainy River, for the FFPLTC’s completion of the Alzheimer Friendly Community pilot program, which teaches the library both how to be more accessible to people with dementia and helps staff better prepare to help these customers in person . O’Connor said she wants to bring the program to as many local businesses and organizations as possible in the near future.

For more information on Dementia Friendly Communities, visit the Alzheimer Society of Kenora-Rainy River website or contact O’Connor at [email protected]