(The pdf for the issue in which this article appears is available for download: (Bifocal, Vol. 36, Issue 6).)
Across the United States, an estimated 5.1 million people age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, and the number is expected to reach 7.1 million in the next decade. Nearly 60% of people with dementia live in their own communities, and one in seven live alone, creating an urgent need for communities to support people with dementia and their caregivers.
In a groundbreaking national effort, communities across the United States—from cities, to counties, to an entire state—are heeding that call and have announced that they will become “dementia friendly.” A dementia friendly community is defined as one that is informed, safe and respectful of individuals with dementia and their families, provides supportive options, and fosters quality of life.
“Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can be devastating to American families, but we are not powerless to support those living with the disease, their caregivers and loved ones,” said Senator Bill Frist, national spokesperson for Dementia Friendly America. “Starting in these communities, we’re building a nationwide effort to educate Americans about dementia, equip business owners and first responders to recognize and assist those with memory loss, and empower people with Alzheimer’s and dementia to engage independently and safely in community life for as long as possible.”
The communities include: Tempe, AZ; Santa Clara County, CA; Denver, CO; Prince George's County, MD; Knoxville, TN; and the state of West Virginia.
Led by the Dementia Friendly America initiative (DFA), the communities are taking action by leveraging tailored resources in business, community-based services and supports, faith communities, health care communities, legal and financial services, local government and residential settings. The work toward dementia friendliness will involve:
- Raising awareness about dementia and transforming attitudes
- Having supportive options that foster quality of life
- Supporting caregivers and families touched by the disease
- Promoting meaningful participation in community life
- Reaching those who are underserved
DFA is building on the leadership of ACT on Alzheimer’s and 34 communities in Minnesota actively working to become dementia friendly. The model employed in Minnesota includes a rigorous, community-based process that brings people together to help a community create a supportive environment for people with dementia. More than 50 organizations—including AARP, the Alzheimer’s Association, CVS/Caremark, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National League of Cities, and USAgainstAlzheimer’s—have joined forces to make dementia friendly communities a reality across America through DFA, with the goal of piloting 15 communities by 2016.
DFA is set to launch a web-portal in late summer, which will include sector-specific tools and resources for those interested in working toward dementia friendliness. Those interested in learning more about the initiative are encouraged to visit the website, www.dfamerica.org, which will be updated on an ongoing basis as the tools and resources are being developed.
The Dementia Friendly America initiative (DFA) is a cross-sector, national effort leveraging tailored resources and tools to equip all community sectors to support those with dementia and their caregivers and families. By 2016, the Dementia Friendly America initiative will pilot 15 dementia friendly communities across the nation. ■