CALGARY -- Dementia Network Calgary is offering free programs for the month of September on how to use personal protective equipment properly along with infection prevention control for caregivers.

The lessons are timely, especially when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada was in its "second wave" of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It can keep themselves safe and their loved ones safe from COVID-19 (as well as) the staff and the facility obviously," said Kim Brundrit, the coordinator of Dementia Network Calgary. "It's also hopeful to give the facility operator some confidence that these people actually know what they’re doing and they not going to come in and spread the disease."

Brundrit fears that if COVID-19 cases continue to rise, health authorities could put long-term care facilities into lockdown again.

"People with dementia need stimulation," she said. "They need their families, they sometimes didn’t understand why their families weren’t coming any more so it’s really heartbreaking."

Dementia Network Calgary has partnered with the Red Cross to teach family members how to properly use PPE.

"So you have to take things on and off in such a way that you’re not contaminating yourself after you’ve put it on," said Brundrit. "Then also when you’re taking it off you have to assume that it has COVID-19."

Lisa Poole’s 80-year-old father John was diagnosed with dementia in 2014. He’s been in a care facility for about two years. The disease has advanced to the point where he’s in a wheelchair and doesn’t speak.

"That was one of our biggest fears when COVID-19 hit and then there was the complete lock down. We just didn’t want my father to die alone," said Poole. "Especially if he doesn’t understand why no one is coming to visit him anymore, like that whole thought is just really distressing."

Poole says if the pandemic worsens, she wants health authorities to change the rules if long-term care facilities are locked down again.

"Families provide about 30 per cent of care in residential care homes and so families should be recognized as essential partners in care," said Poole. "If there is going to be a second wave or even if there are outbreaks in homes, families should not be restricted from entering."

Dementia Network Calgary says so far just over 200 people have taken the program. The Red Cross is able to provide up to 800 training courses specifically for unpaid family caregivers in Alberta.

The program runs until Sept. 30. Full details can be found online.