First Link® for healthcare providers

Understand the First Link® program and know the steps to refer a person newly diagnosed with dementia to their local Alzheimer Society.

Doctor going over referral form with person living with dementia.

Find the specific First Link® referral form for your province.

Looking for a physical copy? Our First Link® brochure can help you discuss the program with a person who has been newly diagnosed with dementia. Download the brochure or contact your local Society to have copies sent to you.

What is First Link®?

First Link® is a referral program that helps you as a healthcare provider* connect a person living with dementia to their local Alzheimer Society, from the time of diagnosis and throughout the duration of their experience living with the disease.

That way, people living with dementia and their families receive education and support in their community as early as possible.

*First Link® partners include family physicians, geriatric specialists, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, pharmacists and social service workers, amongst others, who work in family practice, healthcare facilities and community agency settings.

Why use First Link®?

It helps the person living with dementia and their family

When a diagnosis of dementia is made, the person receiving the diagnosis and their family may feel overwhelmed and distressed with the challenges that lay ahead, and might not be sure where to turn to for help and support.

By referring that person to First Link®, they can see their quality of life improve in many ways. They can:

  • Receive one-on-one or group support,
  • Get access to local health and community services,
  • Meet other people in similar circumstances and exchange experiences, and
  • Get help to plan for their future, helping them develop the competency and resilience in facing their journey with the disease.

The person gets the help they need more quickly

Research has shown that by making a referral through First Link®, the average time between diagnosis and when we see individuals with dementia and their caregivers is reduced from 18 to 7 months.

This means that the people being referred are able to:

  • Get the help they need sooner,
  • Begin to take steps to plan ahead,
  • Decrease visits to the emergency department, and
  • Stay living at home for as long as possible.

How to make a referral with First Link®

Please note that the referral process differs slightly in each province. To make a referral through First Link®:

  1. Ask your patient or their family member’s permission to forward his or her name to their local Alzheimer Society.
  2. Then, visit your local Society's page on First Link® to get the referral form for your province.
  3. Complete the First Link® referral form and return it back to your local Society.

What happens after the referral is made?

Once the referral is made, a First Link Co-ordinator from your local Alzheimer Society will contact the person living with dementia and family members, linking them to programs and services within their community.

Quick links to provincial First Link® pages

On these pages, you can download the referral form specific to your province and find out how and where to submit a completed form.

For Nunavut & Yukon, contact the provincial Alzheimer Society closest to you.

More useful links and resources

First Link® … your first step to living well with dementia. Alzheimer Society of Canada. This downloadable brochure gives an overview of how First Link® can connect people living with dementia to programs and services in their community. Also available in a mobile-friendly view.

First Link® evaluation project: Final evaluation report. Carrie A. McAiney, PhD; Loretta M. Hillier, MA; Paul Stolee, PhD; 2010. This report, submitted to the Alzheimer Society of Ontario, evaluates the effects of the First Link® program based on the first years.

Resources for people with dementia: The Alzheimer Society and beyond. Christopher Frank, MD, FCFP; Sid Feldman MD, FCFP; Mary Schulz, MSW; 2011. This clinical review discusses the benefits of referring people with dementia and caregivers to the Alzheimer Society.

‘Throwing a lifeline’: The role of First Link™ in enhancing support for individuals with dementia and their caregivers. Carrie A. McAiney, PhD; Loretta M. Hillier, MA; Paul Stolee, PhD; David Harvey, Joanne Michael; 2012. This research article further examines how First Link® has helped people living with dementia and caregivers in the provinces of Ontario and Saskatchewan.