Donna Gallagher's journey as a caregiver began when her parents were both diagnosed with dementia in 2015. She gave up her full-time job in Kelowna and moved to Creston to be their full-time caregiver. It was a difficult decision to make, but Donna knew that her parents needed her help. While in Creston, she found support with the Alzheimer Society of B.C.'s caregiver support group.
Donna says, "The support group gave me others to connect with, we were all on the dementia journey and learned so much from each other." She cared for her parents for years until her mom passed away in late 2019, followed by her dad's death in early 2020. The experience left her feeling a deep sense of loss, but she found solace in her support group.
In the fall of 2022, Donna learned the Society was expanding to over 70 support groups throughout the province and there was a need for volunteer facilitators. Despite facing health complications of her own, Donna wanted to be able to support others affected by dementia just as she had been when she was a caregiver. Being able to volunteer remotely through virtual programming helped her to contribute her time while managing her health.
Looking back at the whole experience of becoming a support group facilitator, Donna recalls how supported she's been through it all. "I have felt valued every step of the way, from the time I applied and had my first phone call, through training until now, I feel very valued for what I'm doing, and that makes all the difference in the world."
Donna took part in support group training and shadowed three virtual support group sessions. She also reviewed dementia resources and watched the recommended videos. She’s always learned something new during training and that makes it worthwhile.
Donna is no stranger to volunteering; In addition to the Alzheimer Society of B.C. Donna also finds time to volunteer as a member of her strata board and with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, having lived with Crohn's disease for 45 years.
Being a caregiver support group facilitator has been more rewarding than any other volunteer role Donna has been part of. "Potential volunteers need to know what great value there is in being involved with support groups. "
The importance of being a caregiver support group volunteer cannot be overstated. The Alzheimer Society of B.C.'s caregiver support groups provide a safe space for individuals to connect with others on the dementia journey. The support group volunteers play a vital role in facilitating these groups and providing the necessary support for those in need. Donna's experience is a testament to the positive impact that volunteering can have on someone.
If you are interested in joining the wonderful team of volunteers at the Alzheimer Society of B.C., you can find volunteer opportunities here.