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First Link® program
First Link® is a referral program designed to help newly diagnosed people with dementia get the help they need as soon as possible.
The Alzheimer Society provides services and support at the time of diagnosis and throughout the duration of the disease. Individuals and their families are linked to learning, services and support as early as possible in the disease process. First Link helps to assist physicians and health and community service providers to connect people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias and their families with the Alzheimer Society.
It is often difficult for individuals and families affected by dementia to ask for help. Many families are told about the Alzheimer Society and dementia care services, but will not actually make the phone call until a crisis occurs.
The First Link program removes this barrier to support by ensuring that individuals and families are referred directly to First Link at the time of diagnosis or as soon as possible after a diagnosis is made.
Formal referral comes from physicians and other health-care providers (i.e. allied health professionals), diagnostic and treatment services, and community service providers.
To make a referral: If you are a health-care provider wishing to make a referral, please note that the process differs slightly in each province. Find the site for the Alzheimer Society in your province and search for “First Link”. If you do not see a downloadable form, contact the office for details. Find your provincial Society here.
How the First Link® program works
Once a referral is made, the First Link Coordinator contacts the person with dementia and family members, linking them to Alzheimer Society services and other programs and services within their community.
Connecting people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias and their families to support and information early in the disease is important as it helps them develop competency and resiliency in facing their journey with dementia. The Alzheimer Society helps with planning, support and information, education, and provides access to support services and dementia-specific expertise.
The Alzheimer Society and beyond: A clinical review article in Canadian Family Physician journal, December 2011 issue that discusses the benefits of referring people with dementia and caregivers to the Alzheimer Society.
First Link® evaluation project: final evaluation report. (2010) Carrie A. McAiney, Loretta M. Hillier, Paul Stolee.
‘Throwing a lifeline’: the role of First Link™ in enhancing support for individuals with dementia and their caregivers. (2012) Carrie A McAiney, Loretta M Hillier, Paul Stolee, David Harvey, Joanne Michael.