“When people feel safe and listened to, they can often find a lot of wisdom, strength and resilience – and they can share that with others. We need to nurture that, and a support group is just the place to do it,” says Shirly Tam, who volunteers her time with the Alzheimer Society of B.C.
She facilitates a support group for people caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia.
In 2018, Tam’s mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Joining thousands of British Columbians facing Alzheimer’s disease from a caregiver viewpoint, Tam joined a support group and instantly felt support from its members. “Other people sharing their experiences and their frustrations, as well as offering strategies and coping mechanisms, gave me reassurance that there was somewhere I could go,” she says.
In 2019 Tam had more time and started volunteering with the Society as a support group facilitator. Since becoming a volunteer, she has jumped at every opportunity and now facilitates several groups online and in-person.
The non-profit Alzheimer Society of B.C. is in urgent need of volunteers on the North Shore to facilitate support groups for people in the early stages of dementia and for caregivers.
“Support group facilitators are compassionate people who play an integral role in creating a community of care for people who live with dementia and caregivers,” says Amelia Gillies, Support & Education Coordinator, First Link® at the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s North Shore & Sunshine Coast resource centre.
As pandemic restrictions have eased, the Society has adopted a fully hybrid model. Virtual and in-person support groups across B.C. provide families with choices in how they connect to support and community. Support group facilitator positions are available both online and in-person.
With more than 70,000 people living with dementia and the thousands of family members stepping into caregiver roles, now more than ever volunteers are vital to providing support for these families.
Volunteers are needed for three to six hours a month, including some debrief and administration duties. This position requires a minimum one-year commitment. If you are empathetic, compassionate, have active listening skills, are open to learning and want to make a difference, consider becoming a support group facilitator volunteer.
“It’s a privilege to journey with caregivers. Going through the ups and downs with them, as well as the joy as they develop coping skills – that itself is very rewarding,” Tam says.
If you are interested in becoming a support group facilitator volunteer, complete the online application at alzbc.org/volunteer.
If you are living with dementia or have questions about the disease, visit www.alzheimerbc.org and call the First Link® Dementia Helpline at 1-800-936-6033 (English), 1-833-674-5007 (Cantonese and Mandarin) or 1-833-674-5003 (Punjabi).