First Link®

First Link® … your first step to living well with dementia

The Alzheimer Society of Windsor & Essex County offers First Link®, a program that gives patients with dementia and their caregivers and family a direct connection to information and services in their community.

First Link®, endorsed by the medical community, is based on the Canadian Consensus Guidelines on Dementia, developed by 45 medical experts. Those experts recommend primary care providers use First Link® as a support for patients and families affected by dementia.

First Link® has decreased the average time between diagnosis and referral to local Societies from 18 to seven months. That’s important because the sooner your patient gets help, the more control they have over their illness.

An analysis of referrals to local Societies’ First Link® programs showed 65 per cent of patients were referred by health care providers, while 35 per cent referred themselves.

First Link® brings together the Alzheimer Societies in Ontario, primary care physicians and other health professionals to provide services and treatment to people with dementia – from diagnosis to end of life.

How does First Link® work?

When your patient gives you permission to share their information with our First Link® staff, we will contact them directly.

We will immediately connect them with a network of education and support services specific to their situation. We are their link to community help, both at the time of their diagnosis and throughout their illness.

Because First Link® focuses on service coordination, resources and planning, clients become more confident and involved in their own care, reducing the burden on family physicians, long-term care and emergency services. Families also are better equipped to create their own action plans to tackle future legal, financial and health needs.

Why use First Link®?

Presenting a diagnosis of dementia to a patient is never easy. They may be bewildered and distressed about the challenges ahead, and unsure about how to navigate the health system.

Families are often too overwhelmed to pick up the phone and ask for help. When you refer them to First Link, we call them, connecting them to the information and resources they need to make informed choices.

First Link® gets them the help they need right away, averting possible crises and helping them meet challenges as they come up. That translates into fewer emergency room visits and lets caregivers keep family members with dementia at home as long as possible.

With a projected 40 per cent growth in the number of Ontarians diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias by 2020, the support First Link® offers your patient is more important that ever.

What exactly can First Link® do for your patient?

  • Quickly connects them to programs and services including:                                                                                                                    
    • One-on-one and family counselling and support groups
    • Tips for navigating the health system to get the care they need
    • Five-part learning series of workshops tailor-made for families at various stages of the illness. Topics include practical information about the disease and daily living, positive approaches to care, strategies for challenges and how to prepare for the end of life.
  • Links them to other health and social service providers in their community
  • Helps them find resources to manage issues such as decision-making, adjusting to the loss of a driver’s licence, financial planning, power of attorney and long-term care placement

What health care providers are saying about First Link®

“As a family physician that cares for individuals with a multitude of chronic diseases, I welcome any help I can access to assist my patients and their families. In these days of limited resources, other professionals often have more time and information to share with the public than I have, as I juggle the demands generated by caring for an aging population.”

“As a health care professional, First Link® provides a much needed and valued service. Receiving a diagnosis of any kind of cognitive change can be very difficult for clients and their families. Having First Link® to refer them to, I am confident that they are going to get timely advice and support not only at the point of diagnosis but as their disease, circumstances and needs change.”

How to get in touch.

To learn more or to find First Link® , please contact Janice Laforest, First Link® Coordinator, at (519) 974-2220 ext. 231 or

Referral form can be found here.

Last Updated: 11/08/2017