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Calgary dementia patients and their caregivers to benefit from expanded First Link program

People living with dementia, their families and caregivers will have more access to critical information and supports with the expansion of the First Link program to Calgary.

First Link is an early intervention program that helps physicians and community service providers connect people with dementia and their caregivers to education, services and supports as early as possible after diagnosis.

“Strengthening supports for Albertans living with dementia, their families and their caregivers is a priority for this government. The Alzheimer Society of Alberta and Northwest Territories is a tremendous resource for people in this province who are affected by dementia and I am pleased this grant will bring the First Link program to Calgary."

Sarah Hoffman, Minister of Health

“Having access to the right resources once a dementia diagnosis has been made can make a big difference in the quality of life of someone living with dementia, and for their families and caregivers. The expansion of the First Link program in Calgary will help all Albertans affected by dementia have access to the resources they need, when and where they need them.”

Michele Mulder, Chief Executive Officer, Alzheimer Society Alberta and the Northwest Territories

“Learning to care for someone with dementia is like learning a new skill. When my wife was first diagnosed at age 55, I was sent home on my own to look after her. At first, I thought I could. With the progression of the disease within the next year, I felt helpless and wasn’t sure where to get information. First Link fills a gap with much-needed information and support. It’s truly the missing link!”

John Shyluk, husband and caregiver

The Alberta government is providing almost $2 million over three years to the Alzheimer Society of Alberta and Northwest Territories so the First Link program can be expanded to Calgary. This funding will also allow the program to continue operating in other communities throughout the province. Since 2013, First Link has been offered in Edmonton, Red Deer, Lethbridge, Grande Prairie, Fort McMurray and Medicine Hat.

The First Link program is expected to begin in Calgary this fall. The Alzheimer Society of Calgary will operate the program on behalf of the Alzheimer Society of Alberta and Northwest Territories.

Quick facts

  • Dementia is a collective term to describe brain disorders with symptoms that include decline in memory, reasoning and communication skills; gradual loss in ability to carry out day-to-day activities; and changes in personality and behaviour.
  • As of 2014, more than 39,300 Albertans have been diagnosed and are living with dementia.
  • The number of Albertans with some form of dementia is expected to increase dramatically with the aging baby boom generation.
  • By 2038, an estimated one in 10 Albertans over 65 and nearly half of Albertans over 90 are expected to be living with dementia. (Source: Government of Alberta)
  • Approximately 564,000 Canadians are living with dementia.
  • Women over 65 represent 65 per cent of the current number of Canadians with dementia.
  • In Canada, 25,000 new cases of dementia are diagnosed each year.
  • Age is the biggest risk factor for dementia. After 65, the risk doubles every five years.
  • Three out of four Canadians know someone with dementia.
  • Dementia can be present in the brain for up to 25 years before symptoms appear. (Source: Alzheimer Society of Canada)

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