Mark Clairmont |

BRACEBRIDGE — Debbie Thomson likes to keep an eye on things.

She’s content to watch and observe. Let the others do the talking, says her husband Rob.

But when she heard Town Crier Bruce Kruger announce the opening of the new Muskoka Alzheimer’s office at the north end of Manitoba Street, she piped up.

He brought a big smile to her face.

“I know him; I worked with him in the OPP,” she said.

Thomson, who is dealing well with early Alzheimer’s, talked about doing clerical work in the police detachment satellite office in Bala and before that at the OPP headquarters in Toronto. And for many years prior with the Thunder Bay city police.

Rob and Debbie Thomson say they are looking forward to spending more time at the new Muskoka Alzheimer’s office on north Manitoba Street in Bracebridge that opened at the start of January.

She and her husband were among a few dozen staff, eight board members and many supportive public members who gathered in the bright, cheerful new rooms and offices at their relocated address in the Masonic Building at 239 Manitoba Street North — across from Shoppers Drug Mart.

A sky blue sign in front on the east side of the main street marks its headquarters now after years buried out on Ecclestone Drive tucked behind a gas bar in a couple of tiny plaza office rooms.

Today it feels 10 times the size.

A red ribbon held by board chair Rick Hallam and past chair Mike Provan is cut to officially open the offices as cameras click away.

It’s a long way from some 40 years ago when a small group of volunteers began with an Alzheimer’s chapter at The Pines retirement home before eventually becoming a society, said Annie Knight who has been with them for 35 years.

The coming out at the beginning of the year has been a blessing for the dozen staff who help 700 clients across the district deal with the most widely known — but not only — form of dementia.

The bright, large community room at the back of the offices offers a large space for programming and services.

When asked, Thomson says she looks forward to visiting the premises’ wide open community room, which is behind the offices with easy access door from the Masons’ back parking lot off James Street.

At the start of COVID, Thomson was in hospital for an unrelated issue, when memory concerns were raised by doctors, said Rob who added there had been a few signs before that.

He said further tests — including the clock test — confirmed an early onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

The couple were put in touch with the Alzheimer’s Society of Muskoka, which Rob offered high praise and admiration for.

He emphasized their assistance as “first class” and said the Thomsons have been “treated so well” with aid, advice, referrals and contact support.

Anne Knight and Jean Brewer were happy to be at the opening of the AMS, which began 40 years ago in The Pines with a small group of volunteers.

The retired hydro worker, 79, who receives a little respite time each week from a PSW to do errands, also belongs to ASM’s support group for fellow care givers who share time out of home and exchange personal stories about handling their health care journeys.

He says since Debbie’s diagnosis made him “a better person” — not the least of which now makes hime the one who does the cooking.

“Though I’m not a good cook; she is,” he said as they watched others mingle and cut a huge cake to celebrate the occasion.

Debbie, who was 63 when she was first diagnosed, has since developed Parkinson’s.

She knows what she has and “takes it in stride,” says Rob.

Together they say the new space will be a safe place to continue their shared journey with the help of people who really care for them and want to help them any way they can.

The society’s motto is ‘Live Well With Dementia.’

The Alzheimer’s Society of Muskoka recently received a $75,000 grant from the province to add kitchen space in back to provide related services for everyone.

You can reach them at 705-645-5621 or click here for their website.

The Masonic Building is a more prominent location on Bracebridge’s main street after years out on Ecclestone Drive hidden behind the gas bar.


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