The Alzheimer Society of Sarnia-Lambton was established in 1986 by a group of local volunteers. “The first meeting was held in Petrolia at Twilight Haven Home for the Aged which is now known as Lambton Meadowview Villa. Dorothea Rivett was a driving force for the Society. If it wasn’t for her and the rest of the volunteers, this chapter wouldn’t be where it is today,” says Chief Executive Officer, Melanie Bouck. In 1993, they incorporated as a registered non-profit organization and established a new Board of Directors. At the same time, they relocated from Petrolia to an office in Point Edward. Today, they reside in The Chris Dawson Centre, located at 420 East Street North.
Throughout the years, the Society has grown, not only in terms of people power but also in programming. “We started out with a couple of staff members and now have nine program staff who work within the office and sixteen personal support workers, providing respite care. We have really grown over the last few years,” says team member, Christine Wright. Programs change, grow and expand as dictated by the needs of the community. “While we are funded in part by the Erie St. Clair Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), we rely on special events, grants, donations, bequests and in-memoriam donations to provide our programs and services. All donations stay local. Our focus is on education and caregiver support. We offer support groups for those living with dementia and their carepartners. In-home respite provides much needed relief for carepartners,” says Bouck. They support all types of dementia and host thirteen different groups each month.
The Mindful Music program, which is an iPod program, is now in its third year. “This was started by Vanessa Barnes and now features two hundred iPods and a music library in the thousands. We are always looking for donations of iPods to further the program,” says Bouck. Clients listen to a music playlist that is personalized for them. In many cases, it's music from when they were in their twenties. In some cases, clients don’t interact with people, speak or show any emotion at all. “When they put on the headphones, it’s amazing, they start singing, get out of theirs chairs and, in some cases, start dancing. It’s such a valuable program.” Funding for the program comes from donations and fundraising events. “We also benefited from a grant from the Sarnia Community Foundation.”
Wright provides full-time educational opportunities for professional caregivers, people living with dementia, carepartners, students and other local community groups. “My role is to make sure we promote the best approach for person-centred care for persons with dementia and standards of best practice,” adds Wright. Minds in Motion is a new exercise and social program that is being offered. They also provide a program at the Art Gallery once a month. “We have designed these groups to meet the needs of the community. It’s important to note that anyone can refer to the organization and that we support everyone in Lambton County,” says Bouck.