Becoming a Dementia Friendly Community

Care Partners board members Caroline Schmidt, executive director Kay Grindland, Judy Peterson and Jayne Johnson are Dementia Friends. | CARE PARTNERS

For aging Americans, the fear of dementia now exceeds the fear of cancer. The challenges of Alzheimer’s and other dementias are overwhelming, whether it’s a person asking “How do we take care of mom?” or agencies and governments trying to address the huge burden of care. Currently, over 91,000 Minnesotans age 65 and over are living with Alzheimer’s.

There are no easy solutions, cures or political fixes, but there is a growing movement taking root in Minnesota and across the country to address the needs at a local level: Dementia Friendly Communities.

A Dementia Friendly Community

It’s a place where there’s improved detection and care for dementia. Where business owners train employees to recognize customers with dementia to offer special assistance. Where arts organizations infuse extra patience and compassion into programs targeting dementia. And where stressed family caregivers can easily access support groups and take much-needed breaks—respite care—from the exhausting round-the-clock task.

In other words, communities where dementia is understood, not feared, and people affected by dementia feel understood and included.

Creating a Dementia Friendly Community involves:

  • Raising awareness about Alzheimer’s, transforming attitudes, and moving people to action.
  • Supporting family and friend caregivers by providing accessible information, resources, and in-person support.
  • Promoting meaningful participation in community life for everyone, regardless of who they are.

Care Partners of Cook County is raising awareness about Dementia Friendly Communities and is engaging individuals, organizations and agencies to join in the effort.

“We work with many local caregivers who experience stress, isolation and poor health from the 24/7 demands of caring for a loved one with dementia,” explains Care Partners director Kay Grindland. “We also work with many individuals with dementia who struggle to live alone in their homes and navigate the community.”

“Imagine their relief when someone who understands takes the time to help them find their way, or uses simple questions or visual cues to help them complete a transaction. And imagine the relief of a caregiver when someone reaches out to help or make them feel comfortable with their loved one in public.”

With the help of funding from the Cook County Community Fund, Care Partners is taking some initial steps:

  1. Engaging interested groups, providers and leaders in conversations about what the unique strengths and needs are in Cook County around issues of dementia.
  2. Offering education and training opportunities.
  3. Offering individuals the chance to become Dementia Friends.

Become a Dementia Friend

Dementia Friends is a global movement that is changing the way people think, act, and talk about dementia. By helping everyone in a community understand what dementia is and how it affects people, each of us can make a difference for people touched by dementia.

You become a Dementia Friend by attending a one-hour informational session to learn the five key messages about dementia, what it’s like to live with the disease, and how to turn your understanding into action that supports people living with dementia. The action can be big or small—every action counts.

Join a growing movement of people who are helping fellow community members living with dementia. A little support can make a big difference in the lives of people affected by Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Care Partners is sharing information about Dementia Friendly Communities at their Ice Cream Social on August 27, from 2-5 p.m. at Sydney’s Frozen Custard. An initial Dementia Friends information session will be held Thursday, Sept. 14 from 4:30-5:30 p.m.

Contact Care Partners at (218) 387-3788 to learn more, sign up, arrange a session with your group or get involved. You can also visit the Act on Alzheimer’s web site at: actonalz.org for more information.