First Link®


WHAT is First Link®?

  • A program of the Alzheimer Society of Huron County funded through the South West LHIN Aging at Home Strategy.

WHO should be referred to First Link®?

  • A person with a diagnosis or evidence of dementia of any type (Alzheimer’s, Vascular, Lewy Body, Pick’s, etc.)
  • A family member or friend of a person with dementia

WHO can make a referral to First Link®?

  • Physicians. (The 3rd Canadian Consensus Conference on Diagnosis and Treatment of Dementia specifically names physician referral to First Link™ as part of medical best practice for the management of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.)
  • Other caring professions (Social Workers, Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, Clergy etc.)
  • Self referral

If you or a family member has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or other dementias, First Link is for you. This direct referral program links the person with dementia and their family members/caregivers to coordinated learning, services and support from diagnosis and through the continuum of the disease. Contact our office and speak to one of our counselling staff for further information.

If you would like to make a referral to the Alzheimer Society of Huron County, please fill out the following form: 


All other inquiries please contact the office (519-482-1482).

WHEN should a First Link® referral be made?

  • First Link® referrals are accepted at any stage of the disease.
  • Ideally, soon after diagnosis. Research supports that people who receive counselling and support services early in the continuum of the disease and receive that support on an ongoing basis are better equipped to face the challenges that arise. (M. Mittleman, 2007)

WHAT does First Link® offer?

  • A First Link referral connects the person with their local Alzheimer Society for learning opportunities, support and linkage to community services appropriate to their stage of dementia from pre-diagnosis to post-death grief support.

WHY First Link®?

  • Often, people do not contact the Alzheimer Society or other support agencies until a crisis situation arises
  • To get people connected early in order to reduce the number and intensity of crisis situations
  • To reduce caregiver burnout and pre-mature long term care placement

HOW does First Link® make a difference?

  • First Link enhances linkages between the Alzheimer Society and diagnosing primary care physicians and other health care providers
  • Increases understanding and awareness among family physicians and allied health professionals
  • Increases understanding and awareness among individuals with dementia and their family members, and to increase coping and confidence of caregivers and self-efficacy and self-management
  • Improves coordination of care and linkages to community services for non-medical management issues from time of diagnosis through the duration of the disease

First Link®: A Unique Program

  • Evidence shows that people who are provided counselling and support services early in the continuum of the disease and receive that support on an ongoing basis are better equipped to face the challenges that will arise.
  • First Link™ is a referral program that links the person with dementia and their family members to a community of learning, services and support.
  • First Link™ is funded through the Aging at Home strategy to walk the journey with the person with dementia and their family members.


  • We walk the journey with the person with dementia and their family members as no one else can from diagnosis to end of life
  • First Link® creates a partnership with family physicians and their office staff
  • First Link® links your patients with a Team of experts in dementia care & support
  • First Link®: A Referral system
  • The physician makes the referral and our staff then contact the person with dementia or their family member recognizing that often it is simply too hard for them to do this on their own.
  • In the initial contact we introduce ourselves, explain our services, and initiate the steps in the care plan of their choice. At this time, we will offer to visit one-on-one, and send out written information.
  • We offer educational and learning around the issues they are facing.
  • We offer individual and family counselling, and support groups.
  • We contact the person with dementia or their family member as soon as possible after receiving the referral
  • The referring person will  receive a letter to acknowledge receipt of referral, and

Benefits for Making the Referral

  • Follow up is assured
  • Patients receive earlier connection to support, community services and education.
  • Well informed and well supported persons with dementia and family members place fewer demands on physician time.

First Link®: Saves Physician's Time

  • Family physicians and their staff don’t have to teach persons with dementia or their family members about the disease process
  • Fewer calls from Long Term Care Homes regarding family concerns
  • Fewer calls to the office from family with questions


  • Time and resources are freed up for other areas of practice and personal time

First Link®: Means Improved Patient Care

  • Patients receive appropriate links to community resources and supports
  • Family members gain an increased ability to handle behaviours


  • Reduced usage of emergency departments, alternate level of care beds and Long Term Care Home admissions is anticipated
  • Family experience improved understanding of driving issues and other tough issues such end of life care, Power’s of Attorney’s etc.

First Link®: Means Knowledgeable and Well-supported Patients and Families

  • The person with dementia and their family members have a better grasp of the disease process, treatments, and recommendations.
  • There is better participation in planning of care
  • Family caregivers have improved knowledge, skills and confidence.
  • Family caregivers are better able to develop self care strategies


  • Family caregivers are more willing to work with the physician’s recommendations
  • Reduced caregiver stress means fewer crises, fewer office and emergency department calls or visits, and less in the physician’s practice
  • Improved overall health status for the caregiver

Is First Link® For You?


First Link provides you with the opportunity to learn about every step in the Alzheimer journey. The learning series offers information about diagnosis, day-to-day living, positive approaches to care, strategies for challenges and how to prepare for the end of life.
Connects you to Alzheimer Society programs and services, and provides information about other community and health care services.
Connects you with an opportunity for individual support or support groups.

Last Updated: 07/16/2020