Dementia Friendly Community: A community where individuals with dementia are able to live good lives. It is a place where they receive support from those around them, are met with understanding, and have the freedom to live their lives independently. According to Innovations in Dementia, individuals with dementia described dementia friendly communities as a place where “ they can find their way around and be safe, access local facilities they are used to and where they are known, and maintain their social networks so they feel and continue to belong”. Many cities across the United States have been recognized as dementia friendly communities including Tempe Arizona, Westfield Massachusetts, and Palo Alto California. You can make your community dementia friendly as well by following these steps:
Spread the awareness: Researchers found that people don’t understand the impact that dementia has on their communities. The first step is to raise awareness and define what problems and needs there are in your community regarding people living with dementia.
Build A Plan: When creating a plan to make your community dementia friendly, the views of people with dementia along with their caregivers must be held with high regard. After all, the initiative is to benefit them, so their opinions should be given much importance. To build a plan conduct group meetings with community leaders and members, organize events specifically addressing dementia, and discuss the important questions regarding the initiative such as: what services does the community already have for those with dementia, and what is working/not working with the community related to dementia friendly activities?
Engage the Community: Educate and engage community members about the initiative through sharing personal stories from those dealing with dementia, planning and holding an event to educate others about dementia, hosting presentations at clubs and organizations, using social media, etc.
Implement Services and Support: Build in infrastructure that makes living easier for people dealing with dementia such as housing and public spaces. In businesses, make sure that dementia-supportive customer service is available. Legal support should also be provided to help those with dementia to express their wishes and avoid problems such as unpaid expenses in the future. Banks and financial services should strive to help maintain a dementia client’s independence while protecting them from future problems. Communities should also plan about the safety and needs of people dealing with dementia in disaster planning and emergency response.
Join the Dementia Friendly America (DFA) network to engage in the process to make your community more dementia friendly. The following criteria must be met it order to be eligible to join: People living with dementia along with their caregivers must be involved in making a dementia friendly community since the initiative is conducted for their benefit. An organization must be present in the community who is willing to coordinate as a sponsor, and may also recruit the help of a senior leader of local government in the effort. Adopt dementia friendly practices, report progress tracking, and connect across the different sectors of the community. The benefits of joining the DFA network is that your community gets access to webinars, services, technical assistance, connect to other DFA communities, monthly newsletters, and opportunities to have your communities work recognized. Visit http://www.dfamerica.org to learn more on how you can make your community dementia friendly.
Creating a dementia friendly community does take a considerable amount of planning, initiative, and cooperation. Community members working together towards the initiative will bring everyone together and also make the environment a dementia friendly one. Together, progress is possible.