SUDBURY -- A pilot project started at the end of January is already hugely popular.

The new program at the Alzheimer Society facility on Notre Dame Avenue in Sudbury offers four beds every weekend where people living with dementia are cared for and caregivers have a weekend to themselves.

"We saw that there was a need in our community for persons living with dementia and their caregivers to obtain a form of respite in the evening," said Jessica Bertuzzi, with the Alzheimer Society. "There is short-term respite in long-term care homes, but this one is dementia specific, and it’s for our clients who are familiar and comfortable with our staff, as well as our building and our location."  

Alzheimer Society caregiver respite program Beds

Families need the break

Denise Vallee has been caring for her 93-year-old father for just over a year now since he was diagnosed with dementia.

He has been attending day programs at the Alzheimer Society ever since his diagnosis, and when Vallee heard about this new overnight program, she says she decided to give it a try. 

"It’s almost like a little bit of a weight is lifted, that you can do the things you want to do and it kind of recharges your battery when he does come home to start again," said Vallee.

Officials say caring for a person living with dementia is a 24-hour responsibility, 7 days a week, which is why staff say this program is a way to give back to caregivers.

"We focus on the person living with dementia, but we really need to focus, as well or just as much, on their care partners. It’s important for us that we take care of the care partners, and enabling them to get the rest and relaxation that they need to recharge their batteries," said Bertuzzi. 

Vallee says caring for her father doesn’t just affect her life, but others as well.

"He does live with my family, my husband and two daughters... everybody feels that and everybody is pitching in to do what they can. So, it is somewhat of a... I don’t want to use the word relief, but it is like that, in a sense that you can plan a weekend to go away or go or with girlfriends or dinner dates,” said Vallee.

The Alzheimer Society received money from the province for this program and it will run until the end of March, but Bertuzzi is hoping to obtain additional funding to keep it going.