Age Friendly Cold Lake (AFCL) has been designated as a community ambassador by the Alzheimer Society for Alberta and the Northwest Territories.
The society’s community ambassadors are usually individual volunteers, but AFCL was accepted for the role as an organization.
“Typically the ambassador would be a community member who is interested in learning more about Alzheimer’s, and doing community presentations and creating community awareness through special events and things like that,” said Cathy Aust, AFCL’s outreach worker.
“We’re a little different because we’re the first agency—that is a different approach for them.”
Aust said community ambassadors can be an important point of contact for people who need help dealing with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. They don’t provide programming, but refer people to the Alzheimer Society for appropriate followup.
AFCL, she said, routinely encounters people who have questions about dementia for themselves or for family members.
“We come into contact with so many people who are in need of services,” Aust said. The ambassadorship helps AFCL get people in touch with the information and resources they need.
“It benefits us as an agency, it benefits our clients, and it benefits the Alzheimer Society,” she said.
Jennifer Simms is the Alzheimer Society of Alberta and the Northwest Territories’ community ambassador program coordinator. She said the program is intended to reach out to rural and isolated Alberta communities.
Listening to and learning from the communities is the main goal of the program, she said.
“We started looking for four people over the last year or so. We’ve working with our communities and trying to look into the communities to see what their needs are, rather than us telling them what we think that their needs are,” Simms said.
“It’s allowed us to reach out to rural and more isolated communities and hubs within those areas.”
Volunteers are able to connect with the society’s network of volunteers. “They are able to make differences in their community for people that are affected by dementia,” Simms said. “It allows them the chance to learn about dementia supports and services that are offered in Alberta and how their community can help; and to be able to share information and resources on all different types of dementia.”
Aust says the ambassadors confer regularly.
“We meet monthly on the phone or by Zoom,” she said. “We discuss ‘what’s working in your community, and what’s the best practice here, and how are you dealing with Covid?’ Different things like that. It just benefits everybody.”
Of course Covid-19 has had a limiting effect on the kind of
outreach that can be done. Aust says AFCL would be happy to give presentations to any groups that are interested, to help them better understand and interact with people who live with dementia.
Simms said the Alzheimer Society wants to have 18 ambassadors in place by the end of the year, in nine different hub communities. At present there are ambassadors designated in Cold Lake and St. Paul/Elk Point, though none yet in Bonnyville.
“We’re looking for people that are interested in learning about dementia, that like to be connected into their communities, that want to be taking that next step and enjoy being a part of things,” Simms said. “Right now, we’re looking at people that are interested in researching their communities to be able to let us know what their community needs.”
For more information on dementia resources, contact the Alzheimer Society of Alberta and the Northwest Territories through their website (alzheimer.ca/ab/en) or by phone at 780-488-2266, (toll-free at 1-866-950-5465).
To reach Cold Lake community ambassadors at AFCL, call (780) 594-5666; in St. Paul or Elk Point call Terry Sims, Lakeland Primary Care Network, at (780) 645-1188.