Caring for people with Alzheimer’s in France
Today, nearly 3 million people are directly or indirectly affected by Alzheimer’s in France. The numbers continue to grow every day: almost 225,000 new cases are diagnosed annually, and by 2020, the total number of people living with Alzheimer’s in the country will reach 1.3 million.
As the condition progresses, those afflicted lose their autonomy and require assistance in daily tasks. In most cases, people living with Alzheimer’s are elderly and rely on their families – usually their spouse or their children – to look after them. Unfortunately, this can prove to be extremely challenging, as carers face other responsibilities and difficulties of their own. Many are forced to give up their professional or social lives and tend to end up disregarding their own well-being. To tackle the challenge of providing appropriate care and support in such situations, the French Red Cross has created the Alzheimer’s rest and relaxation services.
Ensuring a safe environment and company for patients and their families is vital to the management of Alzheimer’s. The French Red Cross has therefore decided to provide support for carers, as well as space for some relaxation time for the people who are afflicted. To this end, a network of adapted facilities has been in development since 2016: 42 stops are currently operational across France, and an additional 45 are in the making. There are currently more than 490 volunteers involved in these rest and relaxation services.
These non-medical reception centres complement specialised medical institutions and offer activities adapted to the condition of those living with Alzheimer’s, allowing carers to set aside time for themselves and to address their own needs. Activities are centred on sharing thoughts and listening, as well as on maintaining social relationships, which are sadly all too often negatively affected by the condition. The services are available for one or two half-days a week in premises suitable for the care of people who are dependent on others. Such places serve as a temporary home for people whose condition is not too advanced, but are living with the memory loss and confusion caused by Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Here, they can find comfort in participating in group activities such as board or card games, dancing, or playing a musical instrument.
“Above all, it is necessary to do everything according to the individual and not to force them to engage - this is an essential rule. We respect them by giving them free choice. If they had a good time and are quiet at night, to us that means that the activities suit them perfectly”, shares Danielle Bagaud, a volunteer at a centre in Tonneins.
The reception areas provide care to people with Alzheimer’s to allow them and their relatives to maintain or regain their social life. Through them, the French Red Cross wishes to preserve the well-being and the quality of life of people in situations of dependency by adopting communication methods that respect their choices and preserve their dignity as they approach the end of their lives.
Gérard, whose wife was a regular visitor at the rest and relaxation facilities, shared his experience and appreciation for the support of the volunteers:
“Whatever happens in the future, I will never forget my wife’s radiant face as she sees me return at around 17:00, how she happily exclaims “It’s my husband!”, and how the volunteers cheer for our moment of joy.”
Alzheimer's rest and relaxation service
French Red Cross
Project Website (in French)