Cornwall more dementia friendly through pilot project: Alzheimer Society

A Dementia Friendly Community Leadership award sits on the delegations and presentation desk at Cornwall City Council on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018. The award was given to Mayor Leslie O'Shaughnessy in recognition of the success of a pilot project to make the city more welcoming to people living with dementia. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – With over 3,600 people in the SD&G, Prescott-Russell and Akwesasne living with some form of dementia, the executive director of the Cornwall and District Alzheimer Society is complementing the city in its quest to be more dementia friendly.

Shelley Vaillancourt told city council Monday night accessibility for those with dementia is “very well done” in the Seaway City and there have been easy changes at corporate buildings like contrasting colours at the Aquatic Center doors and hallways to help with depth perception, a sense affected by dementia.

Vaillancourt also noted that through a 2017 pilot project, the society has been able to train 550 local people – like first responders, 911 dispatchers and city employees in children and housing services – on how to handle interactions.

As a result of the pilot, the society also received a provincial grant to roll out the program to other areas in Eastern Ontario. The goal is to train 2,000 more people in the region by March.

“People live symptoms of the the disease for about 25 years. So, 25 years is not the picture that most of us have of people living with dementia. We think of people in the later stages and we miss out on the other 20 years where people are still living within our community,” Vaillancourt told council.

Showing how much it affects the community, Vaillancourt said the training groups of 25 employees had at least one or two in the class who had a family member dealing with the brain-altering disease.

Cornwall and District Alzheimer Society Executive Director Shelley Vaillancourt speaks to Cornwall City Council on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018. Vaillancourt says the city already has at least 550 people trained to deal with people living with dementia. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

The society launched a charter of rights for people with dementia last week, based on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in order to have those treated with dignity and respect.

Coun. Bernadette Clement said making changes is actually improving customer service for everyone.

Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy was then presented with an excellence award for showing Dementia Friendly Community Leadership.

World Alzheimer’s Day is later this month on Sept. 21.

In Canada there are 564,000 Canadians living with dementia and 25,000 news cases are diagnosed every year.

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