Alzheimer Society for B.C. support and education co-ordinator Meriel Randerson and volunteer Carolyn Herbert say volunteers are needed in Greater Victoria

Alzheimer’s Society seeks West Shore volunteers

The Alzheimer Society of B.C. is recuriting volunteers to serve a variety of roles, particularly to facilitate support groups for caregivers

A diagnoses of Alzheimer’s or other dementia is not an instant death sentence. While the symptoms of the degenerative disease will slowly worsen over time that doesn’t mean those with it can’t lead a fulfilling life over a considerable period of time, according to Carolyn Herbert and the Alzheimer Society of B.C. The society is recuriting volunteers to serve a variety of roles with the organization, particularly to facilitate support groups for caregivers. Herbert, a volunteer, said the focus of the groups is not only on how to deal with the more negative aspects of the ailment, but also how to get the most out of life despite it. “We used to fear the word ‘cancer’ and now we’re more comfortable with it. Well, my goal is to eliminate the stigma that comes along with the words ‘Alzheimer’ and ‘dementia.’” With five staff and over 50 volunteers serving about 170 people in support groups, the society is in need of volunteers throughout Greater Victoria. It is also specifically seeking people from the West Shore to help facilitate support groups held there. Support groups are a place for people who are looking after those with dementia to come together to talk about their experiences, share their stories and learn from one another. Herbert started volunteering for the society after finishing her career as a licensed practical nurse and also having come into contact with dementia in her personal life. “Because I got so much support myself, when I retired it just seemed logical this was the organization for me to volunteer with,” Herbert said. Facilitating the groups is an emotional but rewarding experience, as Herbert sees firsthand the benefit the group brings to its members. “They come anxious and angry and frustrated and fearful, and as they share with other members in the group, some of those who may have been down the path ahead of them, they are able to blossom into more confident caregivers over time.” All new volunteers receive training in Vancouver, on a trip which is paid for entirely by the society. There are volunteer opportunities throughout Victoria, but specifically on the West Shore and at the society’s headquarters in Saanich on Burnside Road West. Prized qualities for volunteers include being a good listener, being able to help others connect to one another and being well organized. Somebody with previous experience with dementia is also considered to be ideal for a role, as they will have a better understanding of what the people in the support group are going through. A support group meets once a month at the Alexander Mackie Retirement Community in Langford. More education programs for caretakers will likely be introduced soon, as the population of the area increases. “The West Shore, we’ve had a particular problem starting programs up there and sustaining them,” society support and education co-ordinator Meriel Randerson said. “We will bring them to the West Shore if we’ve got the demand for it … because certainly it’s a lot easier for one or two people from here to go out there than it is for 15 people to traipse here if they don’t have to.” Minds in Motion, a fitness and social program for people in the early stages of dementia, is expanding to the West Shore and will be starting up at West Shore Parks and Recreation in the fall. Volunteers are also needed for the Minds in Motion program. Some programs are starting to be run out of the Metchosin Seniors’ Information and Resource Centre. For more information contact Gabi Townsend at 250-382-2052 or visit alzheimerbc.org. Donations are also always gladly accepted.