Q&A with Jennifer Simms, Regional Lead, Alzheimer Society of Alberta and Northwest Territories

Jennifer Simms

The past two years have not been normal. People are living with more stresses and anxieties, and many tend to forget stuff they may never had a hard time with before, resulting in reduced cognition. How do people know whether what they are dealing with is pandemic-related or a case of early onset dementia or Alzheimer’s disease?
With dementia or Alzheimer’s, it is physical damage, cells dying as apposed to the neurotransmitter (the chemical function) being disrupted. Things such as stress or depression can cause dementia-like symptoms. When the cause of the problem is addressed, the dementia-like symptoms are also corrected. At times, for our chemical function to return to normal, medications may be required. Anytime people notice changes in their cognition it is recommended they should see their doctor. For a diagnosis of dementia to happen there needs to be a minimum of three areas of the brain being disrupted.

Can a chronically stressed brain lead to dementia or Alzheimer’s down the road?
We are not sure this is a research question for down the road. We know that physical damage to the brain, like repeated head injuries, is a risk factor. Would a chronically stressed brain down the road be a risk factor? We don’t know.

What is the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s?
Dementia is a broad term that describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss, changes in mood, and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving and language. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common diagnosed type of dementia at 60%-70% of the time. Other more common types of dementia are vascular dementia, lewy body dementia, frontal temporal dementia, and many others.

What are some of the supports your organization offers to both patients and caregivers?
The goal of the Alzheimer Society is to provide information, education and support to families living with dementia – not only to the person diagnosed, but to anyone helping to support that person.

Our Adult Day Program is a home away from home designed for our members over the age of 60 and who may have physical or memory challenges or both, are living with a chronic illness, and feel socially isolated in their own home. Our program allows people to remain living in the community as long as possible by optimizing their level of physical, cognitive, social, and emotional function. The program is appropriate for medically stable individuals and focuses primarily on socialization needs, maintaining optimal physical and cognitive functioning, and the provision of caregiver respite.

The cost is $10 per day, which includes a nutritious meal and snack.

Can you explain the Minds in Motion program, and is it offered virtually as well?
Minds in Motion is designed for people with early to mid-stage Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia to enjoy with a friend, family member or care partner. Minds in Motion is a wonderful way to get active mentally and physically in an environment that is dementia-friendly and fun. The program combines physical activity and mental stimulation in a social environment. Minds in Motion is currently being offered virtually and is operating in person in select communities.

Are there products on the market that can make the life of a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s easier? Do you offer suggestions and support with choosing products?
There are many products that can help assist a person living with dementia. We don’t recommend specific products or services. However, we certainly share ideas or items that others have found to be helpful, and there are online stores that specialize in products for people living with dementia or other cognitive impairments.

Do you offer a support group for caregivers?
All programing is currently virtual. However, Home Care has a program called the Adult Day Program in Grande Prairie that might fit the need for caregiver respite.

What drew you to a career in this area?
I began with Alzheimer Society in 2017. My grandmother was diagnosed with vascular dementia, and we didn’t have any supports at that time for dementia care. She has since passed on. As well, my aunt was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and had recently passed as well.

When I told my uncle about what I would be doing for the Alzheimer Society, such as information sharing, raising awareness, building support groups, and providing client support, he began to cry and said, “Where were these supports when I needed them?” In reply to him, I had to say the supports were there; we just didn’t know.

That is why I am here: to let families know they are not alone on this journey, which I personally know can be a very difficult journey.


  • Address: #102, 9823 – 116 Avenue, Grande Prairie
  • Toll Free: 1-866-950-5465, extension 301
  • Direct Line: (780) 882-8770
  • E-mail: jsimms@alzheimer.ab.ca
  • Website: www.alzheimer.ab.ca