"Oh good, that's where the nice girl is."
So says one of the participants in Let's Get Moving to her caregiver every time they prepare to head out to the Churchill Seniors Recreation Centre. She's referring to Jesika, a volunteer with the Let's Get Moving program who is, as this woman so aptly describes, a very nice girl.
Five years ago Jesika moved to Ottawa from Timmins for an undergrad in psychology at the University of Ottawa. She is currently finishing her Master's in psychology at Carleton. In fact, while you read this piece, there is a good chance that right now Jesika is defending her Master's thesis. (April 16th - best of luck Jesika!)
Her thesis is about peoples' perception of time, and whether the length or difficulty of a task affects that perception. She's something of a smarty, which is what led her to The Dementia Society and volunteering in the first place - she had what she described as "an easy semester".
To fill the gaps, she looked for somewhere to volunteer, and discovered The Dementia Society was providing training to volunteers on the Dementia Link program. That program was unfortunately discontinued, but Jesika managed to move to the Let's Get Moving program instead, where she has been ever since.
Her goal, a few years down the road, is to complete a PhD in neuropsychology with a focus on the assessment of people with dementia. In the meantime, she sets up takes down and cleans exercise equipment at the Churchill Seniors Centre. And she sits next to one woman in particular during every session.
Jesika's presence creates a feeling of familiarity for this person with dementia, and she gravitates toward Jes every time she attends Let's Get Moving. It's a large class, and there are several volunteers to help other participants, so Jesika is happy to give this woman a lot of attention.
Attending a Let's Get Moving class is about exercise, but also about socializing with other people. About being out in the community and embracing people with dementia. It's also about assisting their caregivers and providing a safe and comfortable environment.
This woman with dementia, and her caregiver, appreciate all those things. But they attend the program at Churchill for one other reason. They want to see the nice girl.
If you look up the definition of ‘volunteer’, it simply states, “Freely offer to do something.” Although true, this doesn’t sufficiently capture those who volunteer. I’ve been a Volunteer Coordinator with the Dementia Society of Ottawa and Renfrew Cou
The statistics are alarming: one of the greatest risk factors for dying of COVID-19 is dementia. The reasons are many and potentially complex, but the need to prioritize the 24,000+ people diagnosed with dementia in Ottawa and Renfrew County and their