This past week, I became one of 22 new Dementia Champions adding to the list of 29 in the state of Connecticut. For all of us sitting in the conference room at the Greenwich Town Hall with Master Trainers, Stephanie Shivers and Katy Bannister, becoming a new Dementia Champion gives us great pride and a responsibility to facilitate Dementia Friends Information Sessions for friends, family, colleagues and members or our communities. The opportunity to be a part of this growing social advocacy movement to help educate and dispel the stigmas attached to the disease is of great need. Dementia is not a specific disease, but is a wide range of symptoms associated with the decline in memory or thinking skills that affect a person’s ability to perform every day tasks. Alzheimer’s is the most common of several different diseases associated with dementia. According to Alzheimer’s Association, there are currently 5.7 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, and it is the 6th leading cause of death in the US. Caring for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementia is expensive for families and caregivers, and the expense will only grow, as the baby boomer population ages. Helping to educate the population about the signs of dementia can make a positive difference in people’s lives as well as for people living with the disease.
So what exactly is Dementia Friends? Dementia Friends is a global movement developed by the Alzheimer’s Society in the UK and has recently come to the US, with Minnesota being the starting point. According to their website, there are currently 13,106 Dementia Friends in Minnesota! Imagine if the state’s enthusiasm for this movement could spread to other states? I was particularly happy to see that my home state of Arkansas also has a statewide Dementia Friend initiative, and will definitely plan to hold information sessions when I visit family.
I encourage my readers to get involved with Dementia Friends. It’s easy to sign up, and there is no cost to being a member of this movement. The information session is only an hour of your time, but the learning is invaluable. From Dementia Friend, you can go to the next step and sign up for an all-day training to become a Dementia Champion. If your town has a Commission On Aging, I recommend you start there if interested. If not, be the first to initiate the Dementia Friend movement in your area!