The program helps communities take steps toward becoming more inclusive of people with dementia. Scotland, for instance, has a National Dementia Strategy and has created a website to help communities become dementia-friendly. The University of the West of Scotland has launched a two-year study to find out the potential for people with dementia remaining in employment after receiving a diagnosis of dementia. England’s campaign to create a national awareness of Alzheimer’s includes a promise to get at least 20 cities, towns and villages working towards becoming dementia-friendly and create a support group of at least 1 million people who are confident offering support to people with dementia. One year into their campaign they’ve more than doubled the number of cities that are working towards becoming dementia-friendly.
What does it mean to be dementia-friendly? AARP just ran an article about Watertown a town in Wisconsin that has launched an effort to create a dementia-friendly environment. Employees at some of the local businesses have been trained to recognize when someone has dementia and to respond accordingly. The local barista may ask a customer to point to the size of drink they want rather than verbalizing it. Employees at the local bank know how to look for signs that their customers have been scammed. Despite the praise for Watertown, America is behind the 8 ball when it comes to creating communities friendly to those with dementia.
A dementia-friendly town has a high level of understanding about the disease so that people with the disease and the people who provide them care feel supported by their community and encouraged to seek help, thereby allowing the individual with dementia to continue to live independently in the community and have more control over their lives.
The final reason communities should become dementia-friendly is that dementia has treated us all as if we are ducks in a duck shoot. We keep moving along hoping we won’t be the next target. Having some sort of direction in which to go allows us to have some control over a disease that robs us of so much. It might be a little win in a giant war but you have to start somewhere.
Is your community dementia-friendly? The state of Minnesota has worked closely with the Alzheimer’s Association to create communities with that as a goal. Contact your local Alzheimer’s Association and see what cities in your region are making an effort to end the stigma of dementia and help individuals live better lives—because you don’t have to have Alzheimer’s to benefit from a more caring community.
For a list of things communities and building could do become dementia-friendly, go here.
For a list of resources, the state of Minnesota (it’s at the forefront of creating dementia-friendly communities in America) has put together, go here.