Unique Ontario program geared towards couples living with dementia

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Baycrest Health Sciences offers a unique program called Road to Connection. This 10-week group program is for couples living with mild to moderate dementia, like Joan and Fred Klap. Married for more than 60 years, their life has changed since Fred’s diagnosis three-and-a-half years ago.

“It’s lonely because if you’re on topic with him, he’s fine,” said Joan.

The program is a team effort involving social workers, artists, neuropsychologists and researchers to develop, provide and evaluate this unique model of intervention, in order to promote brain health and aging.

Care recipients like Fred participate in art classes and work with a visual artist to bring out their creative side.

“I like the interaction between the people that are there and it’s a very respective thing. People are not being put down or being pushed around. There’s a lot of respect,” said Fred.

Road to Connection marks the first time creative arts has been paired with caregiver support that draws on strengths and coping skills.

“(Staff) help them to connect with other people, to see people that are in the same boat, that they’re not alone,” said Baycrest social worker Renee Climans.

At the end of each session, the couples spend the last half hour together working on an art piece while enjoying the company of everyone involved.

“This has brought some new meaning to the way that they can spend time together … and what we’re really hoping is that it can really enhance their relationships as a couple and with other family members,” said Climans.

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