Branching Out

Categories: At Home, Optimizing Brain Health|By |Published On: |

With its newly created cognitive care kits, the Prince George Public Library is helping to eliminate barriers for people living with dementia and their caregivers.

Branching Out

This past April, the Prince George Public Library in northern BC added a new resource to its collection in an effort to support patrons who live with dementia.

               Photo Courtesy Prince George Public Library

The library’s “cognitive care kits” contain a variety of activity-inspired items — such as decks of cards (with questions to help propel conversations), read-along materials, colouring books, puzzles, hand puppets and workbooks — to help activate the brain. The kits were inspired by similar resources being offered by libraries in other parts of Canada.

Our job is to increase access to information across a variety of platforms, and when we learned about these kits, we saw an opportunity to help these patrons improve their quality of life,” says Ignacio Albarracin, manager of collections and technology at Prince George Public Library.

There is a stigma attached to cognitive decline, but if we can make it safe to talk about the subject matter, people might be more open to earlier intervention. It is all about eliminating barriers.”  

     Photos Courtesy Prince George Public Library

Backed by a $6,000 grant from the local United Way, as well as the support and mentorship of the Burlington and Halton Hills public libraries in Ontario, which have similar programs, Albarracin and his team purchased items for their kits, assembled them, and then developed a how-to-use video for caregivers.

They also trained library staff to field questions from users. Nine kits have been in circulation since the spring, and an additional three are housed at the Alzheimer Society of British Columbia in Prince George for demonstration purposes. 

To help caregivers use the kits most effectively, staff recommend embracing two key concepts, which have been drawn — with permission — from the website 

The first concept, “You are the Starter,” puts the responsibility on caregivers to motivate the person with dementia and engage with the process. 

The second concept, called the “WOW method,” suggests they look at Who the person was earlier in life (a postman or teacher, perhaps), Observe how they are doing today (are they sleeping a lot, do they have social connections?) and explore What activities resonate with them (baking, card playing, walking dogs). 

These approaches help facilitate and personalize the kit-user experience and are further explained in the video and on information sheets contained in the kits. Plus, if users have questions about assessment, treatment or supports, library staff members can refer them to the proper community agencies.

                                                       Photos Courtesy Prince George Public Library

Albarracin’s future goals for the kits include soliciting program feedback from participants and, after the pandemic is over, offering on-site training. He also looks forward to encouraging other libraries to add cognitive care kits to their inventory.

 “Kits like these expand the value of what a library is by connecting people and making their lives better,” he says.


Want to talk to your local library about creating cognitive care kits? Call or email the community engagement manager to broach the topic.