Benefits of a Dementia Friendly Community

_DSC0528_lowresby Cynthia Nakayama

Our loved ones with dementia live in the moment. They know ‘how they feel’ even if they don’t remember what happened. So a family caregiver continually works toward a good life for their loved one, which includes having experiences of normalcy and value.

My father’s vascular dementia has progressed over the past four years. He currently resides in a memory care unit, and is fairly high functioning physically compared to many of the other residents. He also wants to converse, and many residents aren’t able to do this. The stimulation that can help with agitation and other behaviors is missing. So although the facility is a good one, and the staff is caring, life in this limited environment is leading to an accelerated decline for my father.

The family caregiver can help close the gap by providing access to broader experiences.  This involves time, energy, and resources, and dementia friendly communities can help. In a dementia friendly community, my father would have more opportunities to safely interact, increase physical activity, and experience good moments more often. In a dementia friendly community:

  • Business owners, bank owners, and faith communities might interact more positively with dementia residents, rather than react with avoidance or embarrassment.
  • Community leaders could help connect community members with dementia resources.
  • Community safety would increase through better protection of elders, and those with cognitive impairment, from harm and abuse.
  • More family members would seek diagnosis earlier, resulting in better treatment/care management, earlier connection to support resources, and improved decision making.

While attending the Alzheimer’s Association’s “Community Conversations on Dementia” workshops, I was encouraged to see many valuable aging organizations and agencies pooling their resources to achieve long needed common goals, one of which is to build dementia friendly communities.

Dementia friendly communities provide more opportunities for people with dementia to experience feelings of normalcy and personal value. People with dementia would be able to contribute to the community and have intergenerational interaction – which is both health-enhancing and energizing.  Dementia friendly communities would result in better quality of life for both the family caregiver and their loved one.

For more information about Dementia Friendly Communities, visit http://www.actonalz.org/dementia-friendly