Scotland and Minnesota have something in common, it turns out that they are among a handful of places where local governments are being encouraged by the state to develop “dementia-friendly communities.” Dementia in Scotland, Winter 2014/15 – Issue 85 of Alzheimer Scotland, Action on Dementia discusses community efforts in Scotland to (1) downplay the stigma of Alzheimer’s and courage those with Alzheimer’s to advocate for themselves and others who, because of the progress of the disease, cannot advocate for themselves; (2) get the providers of goods and services in the community to learn to “speak Alzheimer’s” and to understand how to treat people who are suffering from cognitive loss with the same sense of service and respect they treat their other customers, and (3) develop community-based facilities and programs, from daytime programs for those with Alzheimer’s and support groups for their caregivers to assisted living residences and nursing homes that can treat those with more severe dementia the same way they would treat any other person who has a disability.
Minnesota is the only state in the U.S. that is following the lead of Scotland and others in the UK. Encouraged by the Alzheimer’s Association, a few years ago the state legislature authorized a program to, among other things, give grants to communities who want to be Alzheimer’s friendly. A number have responded. You can read about their successes on their website, www.actonalz.org/.
So you may be wondering how are we like Scotland and Minnesota? Actually, we are not, but we should be. Massachusetts has great resources. Massachusetts has the people and the knowledge to make your community and mine dementia-friendly, to make it a place where we can all feel secure knowing that, whether or not we have dementia, we can live a happy, safe, meaningful life. Take Gary Davis, who runs the Tapestry program at the Salmon Healthcare facilities. Through the experienced–based knowledge they gain every day, the employees at Salmon Healthcare are able to offer the residents of their memory care neighborhoods a more meaningful life. Take Dr. John Zeisel, author of I am Still Here, a wonderful book premised on the basic competence of those with Alzheimer’s. I interviewed Gary Davis last month on my Bergeron Briefs show in Westborough and I interviewed Dr. Zeisel on my show in Wayland. You can see both interviews on my YouTube Channel, www.youtube.com/ElderLawFrankandMary.
What we do not have is a process, like in Scotland and Minnesota, to help us make the dream for our communities to become dementia-friendly communities come true. I am committed to making that happen. If you are interested in working with me to make this dream a reality, let me know. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.