A Task Force Update from Stephen McCullough

When COVID-19 reached Canada last winter, a lot of things suddenly stopped — businesses, schools and more. But at the Alzheimer Society, we actually accelerated our efforts, knowing that a virus isolates people and that would make life even tougher for those we serve.

Just one example of this acceleration is the creation of the COVID-19 and Dementia Task Force. The Task Force moved quickly in responding to the signifi cant gaps in care exposed by the pandemic. You can read about some of their work in this newsletter.

At this time of great stress, your donations enabled us to respond quickly to new needs, and helped Alzheimer Society staff across the country adapt and expand our services to caregivers. Please accept my deepest thanks.


Stephen McCullough
Chief Executive Officer
Alzheimer Society of Canada

Mario Gregorio: Speaking up for the dementia community

When COVID-19 erupted and news started coming in from other countries about hospitals being overwhelmed, Mario grew concerned. He knew that in a pandemic, people living with dementia and their caregivers would be deeply worried.

Diagnosed with dementia 12 years ago, Mario lives independently and maintains a good quality of life in Burnaby, BC. But, he says, there are challenges every day. “There’s so much stigma associated with dementia that sometimes people are reluctant to seek a diagnosis or ask for help.”

Now Mario is trying to make a difference. As a member of the Alzheimer Society’s COVID-19 and Dementia Task Force, he is working diligently to help reduce stigma and discrimination against people living with dementia.

“Change comes from sharing our stories and challenging stigma head on,” Mario says. “We have an opportunity to change the conversation around dementia.”

Why a pandemic task force? Improving healthcare now and in the future

The Alzheimer Society created the COVID-19 and Dementia Task Force to address gaps in Canada’s health and long-term care and create solutions that improve care and support for people affected by dementia.

The Task Force, which includes leading researchers, clinicians, dementia specialists and people with lived experiences, has already refined guidelines for health care providers to reduce stigma and discrimination against people living with dementia, and developed practical resources so physicians can conduct virtual visits.

The Task Force is also exploring ways to ease the impact of the pandemic on our health care system in the future — like making more and better use of telemedicine and improving dementia care in long-term homes — so that, if another pandemic hits, the dementia community is prepared to tackle the challenges.

Meet our task force leader

Dr. Saskia Sivananthan’s passion for helping people affected by dementia began while she attended McGill University. In Montreal, she lived in a building of mostly seniors and witnessed first-hand the challenges of aging. “It broke my heart,” she says, “to see my next-door neighbour, who had dementia, struggle with his daily tasks.”

The experience inspired her to volunteer at a memory clinic and, later, to work at the World Health Organization in Geneva, where she was a member of the first-ever team that created a global framework for dementia care.

Today, as our Chief Research Officer and Co-Chair of the COVID-19 and Dementia Task Force, Saskia is dedicated to improving care and support for people living with dementia during the pandemic and beyond.

Monthly donor corner: Ingrid Cosio

Ingrid Cosio (right) with her mom

Dr. Ingrid Cosio became an Alzheimer Society monthly donor after her mom Susan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at 54. Ingrid continues to give to the Society in memory of her mom and in support of everyone who is living with dementia, today and in the future.

“My mother was a beautiful, brilliant and loving woman and it was devastating to watch her decline over the 10 years she lived with dementia. She loved kids and worked at a children’s hospital. Though her dementia was advanced by the time my own kids were born, she always enjoyed seeing them. I often feel that, somehow, the mother I knew before her disease still looks in on us and marvels at her growing grandchildren.”

Thank you to our gift-matching partner!

Thanks to a matching gift of $100,000 from Extendicare Assist, your donation, by December 31, 2020, will be matched dollar for dollar. For over 35 years, Extendicare Assist has been at the forefront of management and consulting services for long-term care and retirement homes in Canada.

Thank you, Extendicare Assist!

Caregiver tips: Managing through COVID-19

During the pandemic, you’re likely focusing even more than usual on the person with dementia you’re caring for. But it’s also important to look out for yourself:

Take a time out. Find some time in the day for you — even if it’s only for a few minutes.

Eat healthily. Consider getting healthy grocery items delivered to your home. Or ask friends, family or neighbours to run this errand for you.

Stay active. Exercise regularly — free videos on the internet can guide you through at-home workouts.

De-stress. Try stretching or meditating — you’ll find videos online or free apps you can download to your phone or tablet.

Connect. Schedule regular calls with a family member or friend — even a few minutes can help.

Sleep. Do your best to keep a regular sleeping schedule.

Protecting people's rights

The Task Force has developed principles to help frontline health workers while protecting the rights of people living with dementia. There are three principles:

  1. Decide on access to lifesaving resources on an individual basis, without making assumptions about the person’s degree of ability or quality of life.
  2. Treat everyone with respect, be honest with them, and provide the best care you can.
  3. Give people the opportunity to indicate their wishes regarding what kind of medical intervention they want should they become seriously ill.

Gifts of stocks and securities

If you own stocks or mutual funds that have grown in value, you may face a tax bill when you sell them. By donating them directly to the Alzheimer Society, you reduce your tax bill and make a significant gift at the same time.

Making a gift of stocks and securities has the following benefits:

  • Making a Difference – Through your gift you will receive the opportunity to make a significant difference in the lives of people affected by dementia.
  • Tax Advantages – By donating your appreciated securities or mutual funds directly to Alzheimer Society, you eliminate your capital gains taxes.
  • Reduced Brokerage Fees – Many brokerage houses forego fees for charitable transactions.
  • Simple and Convenient – Securities are easy to transfer; you can fill in the form on our web site and provide it to your broker. Your broker will transfer the shares from your account to our brokerage account. The date of your donation will be the date the securities are deposited into our brokerage account.
  • Recognition – Your gift can be honoured during your lifetime.

How does it work? A donation receipt is issued for the fair market value of the securities on the date of the transfer of the ownership to the Alzheimer Society.

For more information, please contact Dana Lecours at 1-800-616-8816 ext. 2951 or at

Holiday visits - online or in person

As we get set to celebrate the holidays, families with members living with dementia face unique challenges. No one wants the people we care about to feel alone but virtual celebrations may be safer. Whether you meet in person or on-screen, here’s how to make your visits more meaningful:

  1. Choose a convenient time: Late day or evening gatherings can be tiring for someone with dementia. Consider visiting or connecting in the morning or midday.
  2. Plan smaller interactions: Try staggering visits or calls with relatives so your family member isn’t overwhelmed.
  3. Bring a pet: Pets can provide comfort, joy and connection, even if it’s just on-screen. Visiting a long-term care home with your pet? Be sure to check the rules first.