The concept of making communities dementia-friendly is spreading in Europe but is just beginning to take hold in the United States, notably in Minnesota. AARP Minnesota
has joined more than 50 groups in the ACT on Alzheimer’s
collaboration to help communities prepare for growing numbers of residents with dementia. (The AARP online Caregiving Resource Center
is one of the resources recommended on the ACT on Alzheimer’s website.)
“We have to get rid of this fear of admitting that ‘I’ve got dementia’ or ‘My loved one has dementia,’ ” says Jan Zimmerman, a nurse and administrator at the Heritage Homes senior living community who initiated the effort in Watertown last year. “We’re hoping to raise awareness so this is not something that hides in the closet.”
Lori La Bey, executive director of Alzheimer’s Speaks, an advocacy group in St. Paul, Minn., helped launch the Watertown movement. At the Connection Cafe she asked people with dementia and their caregivers to share their “blessings and bummers.” One sweet, shy resident of the Heritage Homes memory care wing was the first to answer. “I hate this disease and what it’s done to my family,” she said, choking back tears. “And my blessing is my daughter here. She’s my lifeline.” La Bey calls the Watertown effort “phenomenal.”
“I think it’s going to continue to expand,” she says. “People are seeing the need, and this does not have to cost a lot of money or take a lot of time.”
Elizabeth Agnvall is a writer and features editor for AARP Media.
October 10, 2013 by Alzheimer’s Speaks
Businesses Go Dementia Friendly in Watertown, Wisconsin to Serve Rapidly Growing Segment of Consumer Market
Watertown, WI – What would you do if you were diagnosed with a disease that would eventually rob you of your memory? What if there was no cure and no timetable for how long you would live with the disease. The friends and family you know and love would become strangers. Simple tasks such as going to the grocery store, the bank or even out to a restaurant would become an ordeal and frustrating; maybe even humiliating.
Based on statistics published by the Alzheimer’s Association, there are currently 5.3 million Americans (and 35.6 million people worldwide) living with Alzheimer’s disease this year and a new diagnosis is made every 70 seconds. In WI alone, there is an estimated 110,000. With the first baby boomers soon entering the pool of those at risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD), there are many challenges ahead. By 2050 the number is expected to reach 16 million in the U.S.
The way Jan Zimmerman, RN, Administrator of Heritage Homes Assisted Living and Memory Care in Watertown, WI and Lori La Bey of Alzheimer’s Speaks see it, we have a choice – we can either sit idly by or we can change the way society views those who have the dementia.
Zimmerman and La Bey a global expert on dementia from Minnesota; will kick off a “Dementia Friendly Campaign.” On October 15, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. at Madison College located on 1300 West Main Street in Watertown, an educational session will be offered free to the community to let people know why it is important to be aware of the needs of someone living with dementia and tips on how they can be a part of a dementia friendly community.
On October 16, 2013 at 10 a.m. at Connections Café in Watertown, La Bey will attend the grand opening of the Memory Café, an informal social gathering where those with dementia and those who support them can gather to enjoy the camaraderie of others with dementia.
“Our goal is to create awareness among business owners and employees that people who have dementia are still a vital part of community,” Zimmerman says. “The only thing that is unique is that they may have to be approached in a more sensitive manner.”
Zimmerman and her staff will provide education to Watertown’s business community to give business owners and employees the tools to effectively assist those with dementia. For example, Zimmerman will educate restaurant workers to limit the number of choices that are presented to a guest.
“Think about what the average person goes through at a restaurant,” Zimmerman says. “The server introduces him or herself, asks if we want a glass of wine or perhaps a beer or soft drink, then they might tell us about that day’s specials. That’s a lot of information to take in even if you don’t have dementia. If you do have dementia, it’s way too much to process.”
“Employees in the food industry, financial services or banking – really any business that has a high number of transactions that take place rapidly – need to recognize someone with dementia, slow down, and limit that number of questions and choices.”
Zimmerman adds that part of her vision is to have identification cards available for those with dementia or their support persons, which can be presented when at a restaurant or bank, for example, so employees will instantly know they need to change their service approach. It is a more subtle way to let people know that additional help is needed should the person wish to share that information.
To achieve this goal, Zimmerman is hoping to create a vibrant, active coalition of businesses, those living with dementia and community members who support those with dementia. The Watertown Dementia Aware Coalition is one of the first steps to creating an inclusive community.
Lori La Bey of Alzheimer’s Speaks says, “Changing how communities and businesses approach and work with someone with dementia will have a huge impact not only for the person with dementia, but family caregivers and employees as well. Better service is good for everyone involved.”
“Imagine being limited as to where you can go because of a disease. We have built ramps for those with mobility issues, now it is time to build ramps on an emotional and psychological basis to allow those with dementia to engage in their communities.”
To help businesses start the journey to becoming one of the first dementia aware communities in the United States, Heritage Homes is hosting the free event, “Watertown: Dementia Aware, Dementia Friendly”. The goal is to let businesses know what they can do to remove the stigma of having a diagnosis of dementia and enabling those with dementia remain a vital part of the community. Heritage Homes is asking businesses to:
- Sign a pledge committing the business to learning more about how to help employees become more dementia aware.
- Assess their business environment to see how it can be made more dementia friendly and easier to navigate for a person with memory loss.
- Join the Watertown Dementia Awareness Coalition to let people know that the business supports those with dementia and the persons who support them.
- Display The Purple Angel in the business windows to let people know that the business is dementia aware and dementia friendly.
- Encourage employees to attend training sessions and read informational material by the Watertown Dementia Awareness Coalition.
About Heritage Homes
Heritage Homes offers independent living and assisted living. There is a dedicated unit for those with dementia and other related memory loss diagnoses. Located at 700 Welsh Road in Watertown, Heritage Homes is owned and operated by The Lutheran Home Association. For more information, please visit http://www.myheritagehomes.org or http://www.tlha.org.
About Alzheimer’s Speaks
Alzheimer’s Speaks is US based advocacy group that provides education and support for those dealing with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Their vision is to shift caregiving from crisis to comfort by removing the fear and providing economical services, tools, concepts and products to those in need. Alzheimer’s Speaks believes collaborative and alternative approaches push society forward in search for answers and so they provide a variety of platforms and forums to educate and shift our dementia care culture for professionals, family caregivers and the public at large. By working together and sharing knowledge, Alzheimer’s Speaks feels we can win the battle against this disease. For more information please visit http://www.AlzheimersSpeaks.com