Leading the nation in the creation and proliferation of dementia-friendly communities is quite a responsibility to bear, but the Land of 10,000 Lakes has made it look somewhat easy with the implementation of more than 43 such communities in the span of just four years.
In fact, Minnesota is basecamp for the national collaborative known as Dementia-Friendly America (DFA), thanks to the efforts of more than 35 organizations and a panoply of toolkits, best practices, training videos, and guides created and honed via testing and research, as well as an advisory committee of experts and luminaries.
“We are the model for the national effort and the toolkit and best practices are really the model for the country since we are the first state in the U.S. to be doing this work,” explains Emily Farah-Miller, who works as a program developer and co-executive lead for ACT on Alzheimer’s, one of DFA’s partner organizations. “It’s been an absolutely tremendous learning process and along the way we’ve had lots of opportunities to improve our toolkit and how we provide technical assistance to communities to help them work toward becoming dementia friendly.”
The 43 communities in the Gopher State vary in size and scope, notes Farah-Miller, from populations of 800 to well over 100,000 people. “They are in metro, urban, and rural areas and they are all over the state, from the very northernmost spot to the southernmost spot,” she says, adding that they are very unique in the work that they do because the toolkit is focused on community engagement.
So what do dementia-friendly communities look like? In Minnesota, the movement has led to the development of a variety of meaningful opportunities for community engagement and education that include memory cafés, a play in Spanish to help increase awareness of dementia, an intergenerational dance hall, book displays at local libraries, a local leaders forum to stimulate community conversation around Alzheimer’s disease, and a chorus for individuals with dementia and their caregivers, among many other programs.
According to the Dementia Friendly Toolkit Overview, communities are encouraged to progress through four phases as they journey to become dementia friendly: Convene, Engage, Analyze, and Act. An assessment of the community’s needs and gaps, which begins in phase two, is a key component of the process, says Farah-Miller. “The actions that communities take are not only based on an assessment they do but they also hold community meetings, sharing their assessment findings,” she explains.
When conveners share their findings with community members they are also encouraged to ask them for input and analysis based on those findings. The results, says Farah-Miller are individualized because they are based on the community members involved.
Also imperative to the development of a successful dementia-friendly community is convening a broad representation of the community, says Olivia Mastry, DFA cofounder.
“Every sector in the community needs to do its part—financial, legal, business, clinical, caregiving,” she says. “To organize a whole community, you need to convene a very broad set of stakeholders around the table. That takes time and convincing, sometimes. But once you have them together, the process unfolds over a nine-month or so period.”
The DFA tools have been successfully deployed by dozens of communities across the country, says Mastry. The collaborative is now expecting more than 80 communities in 25 states to join them by the end of 2016. The group’s goal is to have dementia friendly initiatives in all 50 states by the end of 2017.
Mastry pointed to some particularly successful efforts in Wyoming, Alabama, Nevada, Arizona, and Maryland. “Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland in particular are doing great community-building work,” she notes.
Although the city of Denver is in the early stages of its dementia-friendly journey, the community is making strides as it moves toward completion of the four stages, says J.J. Johnson, the Denver convener. “We spent last January and some of February getting organized, and we now have a steering community. In March and April, we went out to the community to seek some data through surveys,” she says, noting that some of the gaps identified in the metro Denver area are in government, business, legal, financial, and the faith communities.
“We are now brainstorming with groups in each sector, and presenting the gaps and asking for input to resolve them,” she says. In one meeting, Johnson says the group came up with more than 45 ideas in 90 minutes about what they can do to help.
The next step, she says, is to vet the ideas and begin working out implementation of them. “Eventually, I see this morphing into dementia-friendly Colorado,” she says.
Dr. Bill Thomas and his traveling team of disrupters will be in Minneapolis, Minn., on Sept. 19 and Denver Sept. 23 with the Age of Disruption Tour, where they will host the “non-fiction theater” performances Disrupt Dementia and Life’s Most Dangerous Game, featuring musicians Nate Silas Richardson and Samite Mulondo and gerontologist Jennifer Carson and activist Kyrié Carpenter.
If you would like to get involved in making your community dementia friendly, visit DFA’s Get Involved page.
How to creating dementia-friendly communities:
A YouTube video of the Tempe, Ariz. Action group:
Oscar Morrison says
It’s interesting to hear that making communities dementia-friendly needs to involve people from all sectors meeting and working together. I hadn’t realized that there was a movement to make communities more dementia-friendly. Having individual businesses and organizations working together towards that sounds like a great program.
I think that building more dementia friendly environments is a great idea. No one should feel out of place in their communities. Everyone needs to do their part so that our communities can be more inclusive.
Sidra Muntaha says
Hello, I’m an AGNG 200 student at the Erickson School of Aging. I agree and support the development of Dementia-Friendly communities to help people with dementia and the care givers all over the country. According to Alzheimer’s Association, it is the sixth-leading cause of death in United States. Moreover, among people age 70, 61 percent are expected to die with Alzheimer’s before the age of 80 (Alzheimer’s Association). These facts and statistics indicates that we really need to do something to control the high rate of this disease especially among elderly. Hence, the development of Dementia-Friendly communities would be a great step toward lowering the prevalence of dementia. The development of this program seems to be increasing from 25 states to 50 states by the end of 2017, which implies that it is working effectively. I strongly believe that the utilizing the opportunities like memory cafes, play in Spanish, book display in library, local leader forums etc. will be very effective to increase awareness of dementia. This will help people with dementia and their care giver to understand the onset of this disease, share their experience and get some tips from other members of the communities on how to deal with this disease. Haber also suggested the implementation of such programs in his book, Health Promotion and Aging, when talking about Alzheimer’s disease and caregivers, ” A meta-analysis of 18 studies reported that a variety of interventions reduced caregiver burden and dysphoria, including education, social support, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and self-help strategies (Haber, 2013, p.414). These intervention work better than drugs by increasing the satisfaction level among caregivers and the recipients. The education and awareness of this disease is equally important for the person with dementia and care giver, because if the caregiver is not happy, the demented patient will not get the care that he or she needs. As Haber says, ” when the caregiver of a demented patient gets increasingly depressed, it increases the psychiatric symptoms of the demented person” (Haber, 2013, p.414). The reason is that people with dementia have their own world that exist parallel to us but with different values and rules (Power, 2010, p.86). The lack of understanding of patients’ needs is the cause of depression among caregivers, which leads to aggressive behavior by both, caregiver and demented patient. Hence, the Dementia-Friendly communities would play their role by educating people and increasing the awareness of this disease and make it more manageable. We need to promote and support the development of such communities by actively involving, as the DFA Get Involved Page shows the ways we can get involved.
Haber, David. Health Promotion and Aging. New York: Springer Publishing, 2010. Print
Latest Facts & Figures Report | Alzheimer’s Association. (2016). Retrieved October 23, 2016, from http://www.alz.org/facts/
Power, G. (2010). Dementia beyond drugs. Baltimore, MD: Health Professions Press, Inc.
I am an AGNG 320 student at the Erickson School of Aging. I chose “Building a Dementia Friendly Movement,” because of the important work being done to reach out to community members throughout the county who wish to implement programs to help those with dementia. The creation of a network of organizers who are devoted to establishing communities to fulfill the needs of elderly patients with cognitive decline, will not only enhance the lives of those suffering with dementia, but it will give caregivers an array of educational tools to face the many challenges of helping care for a loved one. One important concept of this program brings together divisions within a community to offer expertise in order to establish guidelines and tap resources to meet the needs of those suffering with dementia and is essential to the success of the many programs, such as memory cafes. The model that exists is key, not only to the establishment of dementia-friendly communities, but it also provides guidance and analysis to any community implementing a dementia program. Because of all of the groundwork, and the coordinated efforts of dedicated individuals, these programs are available in both suburban urban areas enabling more patients and families to benefit from the programs (LaPorte).
This organization is crucial for our aging population because dementia patients respond positively to cognitive stimulation, such as those offered by dementia friendly community outreach programs. In addition, this type of mental stimulation could reduce the need for antipsychotic drugs, which in turn could reduce the number of falls or seizures (Haber, 2013, p.276). Because studies of the brain suggest that “educational and social activities, challenging occupations, and brain-stimulating hobbies are stimulants for cognitive reserve,” the transition from the use of antipsychotic drugs to the use of social interaction and brain stimulation can improve the quality of life of our aging population (Haber, 2013, p.277).
Haber, D. (2013). Health promotion and aging: Practical applications for health professionals. New York: Springer Publishing Company.
LaPorte, M. (n.d.). Building a Dementia-Friendly Movement. Retrieved November 9, 2016, from https://changingaging.org/dementia/building-dementia-friendly-movement/
Melek E. says
Hello, I’m an AGNG 320 student at the Erickson School of Aging and I support that we should have more dementia-friendly communities around because I think that it is really important to recognize and embrace the challenges a person who has dementia may experience and enable them to live their life to its full potential. Dementia-friendly communities are important to create local opportunities for the elders with dementia and their families. Also, increasing empathy and support are essential components in order to develop a shared understanding of the practical and emotional challenges that they may face. There are many successful examples of these programs in both the lives of patients and their families around the world. For instance, additional training is offered for local bus drivers and hairdressers etc. in order to recognize people with dementia and work with them so that way they can meet their needs and provide a free and safety community in the UK. The number of people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is expected to double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050. Based on this information, raising awareness in regards to dementia and offering valuable services are extremely important and should be a public health priority. I had to read about how to approach a person struggling with dementia in particular and solved a study case in class and I know that individuals with dementia may have many barriers to daily living activities other than physical health issues such as fear of getting lost, lack of confidence and feeling uncomfortable of being a dependent person. We should all realize the fact that they are not doing things on purpose to annoy us but rather are not capable of controlling their behaviors. We should accept them as they are and try to create a community where they all can feel a sense of belonging.
Hello, I’m an AGNG 200 student at the Erickson School of Aging and I agree that there should be more dementia-friendly communities all over the United States and the need for dementia-friendly communities is important. I agree with this because Alzheimer’s and dementia is a very prevalent among older people and having a community that is dementia-friendly will definitely make them feel more comfortable. One in nine people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s disease and by mid-century, someone in the United States will develop the disease every 33 seconds (Latest Facts & Figures Report | Alzheimer’s Association, 2016). This fact is very scary since we are all going to get old and possibly get Alzheimer’s or have problems with dementia, so it’s important to establish communities now to such a big problem. I think its great that there are 25 states that have a dementia-friendly community, but I think having a special community in every state will be very beneficial to any older adult with dementia. Looking deeper in the blog and navigating links, I was able to discover that most of the facilities and services were dementia-aware and will make life easier for people with dementia. I just hope when I get older and I have to face problems with dementia, there is a special community I can go to that will make me feel more comfortable than a normal community. My position relates to the concepts I have studied in class since I had to write discussion board post on dementia, which included the common signs and symptoms. I also researched the problems dementia could lead to for a person and the problems were very unsettling. I think its important that an older person who is facing problems so late in his life should be able to live his life with ease and stress free.
Latest Facts & Figures Report | Alzheimer’s Association. (2016). Retrieved October 23, 2016, from http://www.alz.org/facts/
Hi, Meg! This was really a great post. It is always encouraging to read about the growing collective providing dignified care for people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s. I look forward to reading more on the Dementia-Friendly collaborative and the success I’m sure they will have in the future. Thank you!
Florence KLEIN says
i angree w/ “still the lucky fews+ I believe that each person and their family & care givers need to make the decision whether to go public w/the information —no matter a public or private person.
David "Lucky" Goff says
I am impressed by the efforts that are being made to organize community awareness around this difficult and painful issue. Any move to build community is really good. I’m impressed by the strides that are being made and the good feelings their arousing, BUT is this effort really translating into improved care for everybody involved? The article is strong on community rah-rah, but offers very little insight into better treatment. I realize it is an improvement bringing dementia, as an experience, out of the shadows, but is the movement really adding light? I can’t really tell if treatment and cause are really being addressed. That seems to me to be the crux of the issue. This is a good step forward. It is to be celebrated, but let’s keep our eyes on the real prize.
Still the Lucky Fews says
Community opportunity engagement activities that are fun and educational are rare, but this organization seems to have accomplished exactly that! Very encouraging, and great news for those needing support!