49 Blackburn Center, Gloucester MA | 100 Cummings Ctr, Ste 106H, Beverly, MA
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Dementia Friends

Dec 29, 2019

If you saw someone living with dementia, would you recognize the signs?

Would you be uncomfortable?
Would you avoid them?
Would you be frustrated?
Would you do nothing?

Or, would you be a friend? 

A few weeks ago, I became a “Dementia Friend.”  Dementia Friends is a global movement that is changing the way people think, act, and talk about dementia. Developed by the Alzheimer’s Society in the United Kingdom, the Dementia Friends initiative is underway in Massachusetts. By helping everyone in a community understand what dementia is and how it affects people, each of us can make a difference for people touched by dementia.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are 5.7 million Americans currently living with Alzheimer’s Disease. This number is expected to more than double by 2050. Every 65 seconds, someone in the U.S. develops the disease.

Communities are coming to the realization that, as the number of people living with dementia increases, public awareness, understanding and caring can make a big difference in the lives of those living with dementia and the people who care about them.   This is the purpose of Dementia Friends—awareness and empathy.

Five key truths about dementia–

  1. Dementia is not a normal part of aging.
  2. Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain.
  3. Dementia is not just about having memory problems.
  4. It is possible to have a good quality of life with dementia.
  5. There is more to a person than the dementia.

To become a Dementia Friend, I participated in a one-hour Dementia Friends Information Session. I learned about dementia and a bit about what it’s like to live with dementia. As a Dementia Friend, I can now turn my understanding of dementia into a practical action that might help someone with dementia living in my community. This action can be as big or as small as I choose.

The Information Session I attended was run by a “Dementia Friends Champion.” It was not a formal training, but had activities and discussion that cover the basic information everyone should know about dementia.

A Dementia Friends Champion is a person who has attended a Dementia Friends Information Session, and has chosen to participate in the additional Champion training.  Once the Champion training is successfully completed, the Champion may facilitate Dementia Friends sessions with friends, family, co-workers, or anyone else in their community. 

A Dementia Friends Champion does not need to be a dementia expert. The Champion’s goal during a Dementia Friends Information Session is to help community members understand dementia and the small things they can do to make a difference for people living with dementia.

Following the Dementia Friends Information Session I attended, there was a Champions training.  Forty-eight people from several different organizations from throughout the North Shore participated in the training, and are now qualified to offer Information Sessions to others. Some attendees included police officers, Council on Aging directors, a college professor, transportation authority employees, hospital and home care providers, and retired volunteers among many others.  Several of these newly minted Champions have already scheduled Information sessions with their local libraries, fire departments, churches, and other community organizations.

If you would like to host a Dementia Friends Information Session on the North Shore, please contact SeniorCare’s Age & Dementia Friendly Coordinator Carrie Johnson at 978-281-1750 for information on Dementia Champions in your neighborhood.

For more information about the Dementia Friends Massachusetts initiative, visit their website at www.dementiafriendsma.org.