Becoming a dementia-friendly community takes much more than educating age-related organizations and service providers. It takes all sectors of society coming together to not only raise awareness but also make the changes necessary to ensure that individuals with dementia and their care partners are able to remain active members of the community. Such is the vision of the Nevada’s effort to create a dementia-capable and dementia friendly system.
Indeed, Dementia-Friendly Nevada (DFN) aims to ensure that all stakeholders are enlisted in the effort. And thanks to a $1 million grant from the Administration for Community Living (ACL), they are moving full steam ahead under the direction of a unique collaboration of organizations. DFN brings together a variety of groups and resources, including the University of Nevada-Reno’s (UNR’s) Sanford Center for Aging, the Alzheimer’s Association, the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, AARP of Nevada, and the Nevada Aging and Disability Services Division (ADSD).
The ACL grant may not have been possible without the help of Dementia-Friendly America, the umbrella group that provides technical support, resources, and tools to localities all over the country. A previous post on this blog outlines DFA’s work to help all 50 states become dementia friendly.
Central to the initiative’s success, says Mary Liveretti, president of AARP Nevada and advisory committee member, is the inclusion of individuals with dementia and their carepartners. “It’s impossible to plan around dementia without involving people with dementia and their care partners and ensuring their active participation,” she says, noting that all participating localities will be urged to collaborate with people living with the disease and their family members.
A key ingredient in this effort is advisory board member Bob Yetz, who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. “I call him our true north,” says Liveretti. “He keeps us real and he shares his own experiences, which helps us better understand what is necessary to ensure the effective building of a dementia-friendly communities.”
Also important to the work is the development of seven community action groups that will receive grants to ramp up their efforts to make localities throughout the state become dementia capable and inclusive. As lead facilitator of the action groups, Jennifer Carson, PhD, research assistant professor and director of Gerontology Academic Programs at UNR, will build capacity and connect the groups with available resources. “I’m going to work with the groups to help them better understand what works and what doesn’t work, as well as cross pollinate ideas,” she says. “I will also ensure that they have access to existing resources, including the many offered by DFA.”
So what is the difference between dementia friendly and dementia capable? ADSD Analyst Jeff Doucet, who manages the grant, explains that creating a dementia-capable system entails enhancing the state’s toolbox of services that help people with dementia and their care partners. Dementia friendly, on the other hand, flips that the other way around, Doucet says, “to ensure the services are out there by asking people with dementia and their care partners, ‘what do you need and how can we help you develop what’s needed in your communities?’”
Dr. Bill Thomas’ 2017 ChangingAging tour will stop in Reno, Nev., on April 10, for a day that blends research, storytelling, music, and art in two nonfiction theater performances: Disrupt Dementia, in which UNR’s Carson takes the stage with friends to combat fear and stigma related to dementia and open new possibilities for living well, and Life’s Most Dangerous Game, starring Dr. Thomas, which disrupts ageism in a powerful and personal way.
Capping off the Reno stop will be a special panel of local champions, who will discuss Nevada’s dementia-capable system and opportunities for continued growth toward dementia-friendly and inclusive communities.
Both performances are inclusive and welcoming to all people.
“The real purpose of the ChangingAging Tour is to explore the hidden dimensions of our shared humanity,” says geriatrician and Tour founder Dr. Bill Thomas. “This year we are challenging ourselves and our audience to embrace the phenomenon of dementia and the people who experience it as teachers and collaborators.”