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St. Joseph’s program geared specifically to those with young-onset dementia

The program runs on Tuesday afternoons from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at St. Joseph’s Health Centre
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St. Joseph’s Health Centre revised its young on-set dementia program. It has a new name, a new time and is also welcoming new patients. 

Previously established as Wednesday Night Joes in 2014, the new program by the Young Onset Dementia Association (YODA) at St. Joseph’s Health Centre is designed to help those in the community who are experiencing young onset dementia. The program takes place on Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at St. Joseph's.

Young-onset dementia — which means a diagnosis is made before the person turns 65 — is rare and affects about three per cent of those diagnosed with the disease.

However, a diagnosis of dementia in younger years can be particularly difficult and presents some unique challenges.

“When you’re diagnosed in your 70s and 80s, you’re in a different stage of life. You’re most likely retired, no longer working, your financial obligations are different. Your children are usually older,” says St. Joe's spokesperson Tanya Tomasino.

"It is not an easy diagnosis regardless of how old you are."

To address the challenges faced by those diagnosed with early-onset dementia, the YODA program aims to provide a non-judgmental space where individuals can meet others going through similar challenges.

The program aims to promote self-esteem and confidence by helping participants maintain a sense of autonomy and personal decision while engaging with others and participating in activities that are meaningful and fun.

These activities can include games to promote brain health, suggesting general interest subjects they want to explore for presentations or discussions and using technology. The program cost is $12 per day.

Tomasino says because it’s particularly difficult for people to identify with dementia in their age groups when a friend is diagnosed early, it can be very isolating. So social activities with like-minded people give individuals an opportunity to engage in activities together.  

“It gets people out of the house to do something that is geared to their interests but also geared to their cognition to where they are in their dementia journey. So if its playing video games, it’s playing video games, and it just kind of depends on the individual,” says Tomasino. 

She said another benefit of the program is the opportunity to pursue a new interest or rediscover an old interest.

“We have a participant who has rediscovered art and, as part of the program will seek a YouTube video on how to paint a particular painting and will recreate it during the group meeting,” said Tomasino. 

“The biggest benefit is the meaningful social connection. The group brings strangers together who are going through similar challenges and gives them an opportunity to spend time together and share their experiences.”