Alzheimer Society finding people living with dementia have become more isolated due to pandemic

January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. The Alzheimer’s Society of Sudbury-Manitoulin North Bay & Districts is helping clients with Alzheimer’s or other dementia-related issues stay connected. Many have become isolated due to COVID-19 restrictions throughout the pandemic.

Rita Brousseau, 93, is surrounded by a loving family, including her daughters Chantal and Johanne. Rita was diagnosed with age-related dementia in her late 80s.

"Throughout this journey, we have learned as a family that we need to rely on each other for support and not be afraid to ask for help when needed," Chantal said.

To keep busy, Rita spends time with her family and also participates in activities at the Alzheimer’s Society’s 'Health Bistro' twice a week for social interaction. She’s been attending for the last three and a half years. The family nicknamed it the "coffee club."

Rita said participants do various crafts, such as painting and colouring, and also play bingo and other games.

The Alzheimer’s Society is finding a lot of people living with dementia have become isolated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the beginning of the pandemic, most activities were forced to move virtually.

"Being able to continue going for your morning coffee, or your walks, going to social groups and day programs are all ways persons living with dementia can keep engaged," said Jessica Bertuzzi, the Alzheimer  Society’s public relations and education manager.

As part of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, the organization is offering online learning sessions about dementia while at the same time keeping programming steady for clients.

"We’re doing health promotion programs," said Bertuzzi. "We have a wonderful team conducting our ‘Minds of Motion’ program virtually."

For those living with the disease, like Rita and her caregivers, the pandemic has been a struggle at times. But the family is doing all it can to navigate through it.

"There’s a lot of planning and creativity and phone calls and scheduling happening behind the scenes to make sure every day goes by smoothly to assure mom’s safety and well-being," Chantal said.

As part of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, the organization is encouraging those who know someone living with dementia to reach out to their friend or family member or even lend a helping hand.