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By Angela Lunde
September 2, 2015
Having a solid community of people we can trust enough to be vulnerable with and who will sustain us through difficult times is a foundational part of life. Yet, I hear all too often that people with dementia and their caregivers feel isolated and cut off from their own community.
Those with dementia say they feel marginalized by society and, along with their caregivers, reveal that that they often feel excluded by friends, neighbors and from everyday community life.
Communities, counties, and even entire states are now taking action to change this. A landmark announcement made in July at the White House Conference on Aging launched the start of Dementia Friendly America.
Dementia Friendly America is building on the leadership of ACT on Alzheimer's, a model activated in my state of Minnesota that incorporates a rigorous, community-based process.
George Vradenburg, founder of USAgainstAlzheimer's, who worked to help launch the Dementia Friendly America effort, said, "This hometown Dementia Friendly America initiative sends a message to American families experiencing dementia: 'you are not alone, we are your neighbors, we care about you, and we want to help.' "
Dementia Friendly is much more than simply being kind to those impacted by dementia. A dementia friendly community is one where those living with Alzheimer's and their care partners feel respected, supported, and included in everyday community life.
It's a place where employees at local shops, restaurants, government institutions, libraries, banks, law offices, theaters, grocery stores, churches, as well as emergency service personnel, neighborhood groups and even doctors, receive dementia awareness education and specialized training.
Dementia Friendly communities are places that offer programs such as walking clubs, peer support groups, memory cafes, and cultural outings for those living with dementia. They are committed to innovative ways to think about public transportation, signage, streetscapes and public buildings to better serve and orientate those with memory loss or dementia.
Imagine a community in which people with dementia feel included, respected and valued. Where they can get around with ease and continue to participate in activities that are meaningful to them.
Imagine a community where family caregivers feel connected and supported with a variety of accessible and affordable social networks, programs and services. We may not have a cure for Alzheimer's, but we have a vision, we are taking action and a societal cure is within reach — community.
For more on Dementia Friendly America go to www.dfamerica.org