First Link Helpline offers resources for dementia

Service especially beneficial for rural residents with difficult access to getting diagnosis

Tara Hildebrand, support and education coordinator with the Alzheimer Society of B.C. encourages those concerned about dementia to call the First Link Helpline to access the appropriate resources.

By Jaime Polmateer

The Alzheimer Society of B.C. said it wants to remind the public of its First Link Dementia Helpline, especially those in rural areas like the North Thompson where a diagnosis might be more difficult to come by.

“We’re trying to provide more services and more opportunities for families to get connected with us and stay connected with us,” said Tara Hildebrand, support and education coordinator with the society.

“The dementia helpline has always been in place, but we want to make sure families are aware of the service and that it is a provincial service, it’s not just the coast or Vancouver.”

Hildebrand added more than 70,000 people in B.C. live with dementia, but it’s nearly impossible to get a definitive number.

“The truth of it is, how many people are living with dementia in our province and don’t have a diagnosis? They might be living alone, they might be living rurally and haven’t received a one,” she said.

“We can do an estimate from what is shared as far as diagnosis goes, but when you look at each little area, like the North Thompson, how many people are living rurally that we’re not going to have any stats on? They might live alone on a ranch, so we can’t look at that and say.”

The First Link Dementia Helpline offers an easy way for families to access resources needed from the beginning, right through the process of diagnosis, while helping people navigate the health system.

Staff with the Alzheimer Society of B.C. can tell people the closest places one can go for help and make referrals to the appropriate health authorities 24 hours a day.

“If they want be involved with First Link and have follow up calls and access to all of that extra information and support, we can get them started within our First Link file system as well,” said Hildebrand.

There is also information on the website, alzheimerbc.org, that Hildebrand said people concerned are encouraged to check out as it offers the 10 warning signs of dementia and discusses the difference between natural memory loss that comes with age and memory loss that comes with the condition.

As for the helpline, Hildebrand added another benefit is the aspect of being anonymous when one reaches out.

“There are so many people in the communities that are afraid to reach out and ask questions because unfortunately there’s still a stigma attached with (the condition) so people are apprehensive, but the thing about making a phone call is there’s a bit of being anonymous on the other end of the phone,” she said.

“We’re happy to answer those questions for families, so please don’t hesitate; as I said, we can take a family right through that process of getting a diagnoses, or where to go for help if they’re a caregiver and starting to need more help in their home.”

Hildebrand added staff can can give phone numbers for who to call, information on how to ask for help and what would be expected, and then further help getting people into the support groups and workshops the society offers.

Those who would like to access the First Link Dementia Helpline can do so by calling 1-800-936-6033.

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