Three years ago, the town of Innisfail had very little programming for individuals living with dementia.
Today, Innisfail is a dementia friendly community and a model for other rural communities. Much of the credit goes to a group called Community Partners In Action, whose goal is to make Innisfail a better place for those living with dementia, their caregivers, and their families.
The group includes three local health professionals: Jennifer Wood, a registered nurse, Wendy Evans, a geriatric assessment registered nurse, and Ellen Helgason, a recreation therapist. The “Weird Mix,” as they refer to themselves, are assisted by three community volunteers—Rebecca Aspden, Jean Barclay, and Karen Bradbury—in collaboration with other agencies in Innisfail including Town of Innisfail Family and Community Support Services, Wolf Creek Primary Care Network, and Alberta Health Services.
Many people living with dementia and their caregivers live in isolation, so Community Partners in Action created opportunities for them to socialize with others.
Bulbs and Blooms is an intergenerational garden program where participants, often alongside their grandchildren, planted a garden.
“[It’s an opportunity for them] to sit and have a coffee and a visit at the garden, reminiscing about how they planted their garden,” explained Helgason.
The Memory Café is a regular event where those living with dementia and their caregivers get together to play games and socialize.
Caregiver, Keith Ible, and his spouse, Lee, are regular attendees.
“I really enjoy it, because I need contacts. I need a little bit of an outing,” said Ible. “And for Lee, it’s awesome as well. She gets an activity, and she sees other people.”
When the pandemic prevented Memory Café from taking place, Community Partners in Action improvised and created an online program called Innisfail Connects.
“[Persons living with dementia along with their caregivers and their families] can come online, they can play bingo, [and] they can have coffee with each other,” said Helgason. “They can be themselves, have a lot of fun, and just connect with each other.”
This past winter, participants enjoyed an online virtual tour of Reynolds-Alberta Museum that featured antique farm equipment, automobiles, and aircraft.
In another session, a chocolatier showed them how to make truffles.
Community Partners in Action also created a fall prevention program with the help of a local physiotherapist.
“Fall prevention and Memory Café have certainly maintained people’s function and their overall brain health to be able to stay at home longer, rather than go into an institution,” stated Evans. “And that’s where people want to be. They want to be at home and participating in their community.”
Wood held information sessions on dementia for first responders and local businesses.
“Small encounters with people in the community might be their only source of socialization for that day or that week, so [it’s best to be] respectful and caring,” Wood explained.
Brent Jackson, owner of Jackson Pharmacy in Innisfail, said he learned that when you are talking with a customer that has some dementia, not to correct them all the time, but to listen.
“People living with dementia may forget your name, but they’ll never forget the way you make them feel,” added Rebecca Aspden, practice facilitator, Wolf Creek Primary Care Network and volunteer with Community Partners in Action.
Congratulations to Innisfail’s Community Partners in Action, recipient of a 2021 RhPAP Rhapsody Health-care Heroes Award.