Nearly a year after the first ground breaking took place, the Alzheimer Society of Laval has opened the first comprehensive residence and treatment centre in the city's Vimont sector for patients with Alzheimer's disease. Since September last year, the ASL had been providing services out of a house in the area, where the first live-in patients were also taken in. The new and much larger residence and treatment centre on René-Laennec Boulevard has been named after Francesco Bellini, a Montreal-area scientist and businessman, who donated a large portion of the $2.8 million it cost to build the centre.
Alzheimer's cause still unknown
Alzheimer's is a neurodegenerative disease that, in its most common form, is found in people over age 65. Approximately 24 million people worldwide suffer from dementia, of which the majority, about 60 per cent, is due to Alzheimer's. Clinical signs of the disease are characterized by progressive cognitive deterioration, together with declining activities of daily living and by neuropsychiatric symptoms or behavioral changes. Alzheimer's is considered the most common type of dementia. The ultimate cause of Alzheimer's remains unknown, although genetic factors are clearly indicated.
Attended by dignitaries
"Long hoped for, finally a reality, the Francesco Bellini House, since that is it's name now, has been born after being a cherished dream for more than five years by ordinary people from every background from the Laval community," Jean-Guy Tremblay, president of the ASL board told a gathering of diginitaries and other guests during an official opening ceremony for the Maison Francesco Bellini last Monday. Among them were Quebec education, sports and eisure minister Michelle Courchesne, Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancourt, Chomedey MP Guy Ouellette, Rivière-des-Prairies MNA Alain Paquet and Laval-les-Îles MP Raymonde Folco.
More than 170 sponsors
Pierre Grothé, a contractor who supervised construction, said he decided to undertake the project after undergoing a medical emergency two years ago that turned into an awakening. Around that time, Courchesne, who is the MNA for Laval's Fabre riding, and Vaillancourt asked him to build a centre for Alzheimer's patients. He said he was already motivated, since his mother died of the disease. He noted that besides Bellini, more than 170 other sponsors contributed donations that made the project possible. Vaillancourt pointed out that the Alzheimer's centre finally fills a gap that has existed for some time in Laval's health services network.
'A success story' — Vaillancourt
"This is a success story," he said. "A success because people answered the call." Vaillancourt recalled contacting Bellini, whose pharmaceutical research business is based in Laval, and suggesting that he donate a sum in the range of six figures, starting with a three, and Bellini agreed. Courchesne said she had been thinking for weeks about the day the Alzheimer's centre would open. "It is difficult for me this morning not to be profoundly touched by so much generosity … I want to tell you how proud I am to be a Lavaloise, proud of all of you who answered the invitation that was extended."
Bellini donation 'sizeable'
She said Vaillancourt also lent a lot of support. The City of Laval donated a parcel of public land on which to build the project. In an interview, Bellini described his donation as "sizeable," without divulging the exact amount. He said it's also one of the largest he's ever made to a charitable cause. He confirmed that his company, Neurochem, is currently working on the development of pharmaceutical treatments for Alzheimer's. "It's one of our major projects," he said. "It's a very difficult disease."