Would you recognize the signs if you saw someone living with dementia? Dementia is a disease of the brain that can cause more than memory problems. Though it is not a normal part of aging, it is possible for someone with dementia to have a good quality of life, and that’s where you come in.
If you recognized someone living with dementia, would you be a friend — engage them and empower them to get through their day — or would you do nothing?
That’s the question Dementia Friends, a global movement aimed at reducing the stigma associated with dementia, wants you to consider. There’s more to a person than his or her dementia, and whether or not you realize it, you have the power to help make the world less frightening or confusing for someone with this disease.
What is a Dementia Friend?
Dementia Friends USA encourages people to create and take part in dementia-friendly communities by educating people about dementia and how to improve the lives of those with the disease.
The movement began in the UK after a survey by Public Health England and the Alzheimer’s Society revealed that people living with dementia often feel isolated from their communities because people don’t know how to interact with them.
Common Dementia Misconceptions
When you think of dementia, what comes to mind? If you’re like most people, you probably think of memory loss. You might also think if you or a loved one develops dementia, you will inevitably have to live in a nursing facility.
Bonnie Burman, president of the Ohio Council for Cognitive Health, the organization behind Dementia Friends Ohio, wants you to know that doesn’t have to be the case.
“Often times people have their loved ones go into an organized care setting because they can't do it anymore. Because they are frustrated. Because there's a crisis, you just name it. If people in the community actually are able to embrace or help those impacted by dementia, then some of these crises would actually be averted,” she explained.
Dementia can also go beyond the stereotypical symptom of memory loss. People with dementia may experience problems with thinking, communication or doing everyday tasks, and as a result, may begin to isolate themselves.
“That's why we're doing the Dementia Friends program. People are lonely because they will not leave their house because nobody understands them, because the community is not embracing them. If the community was able to embrace them, this loneliness would not be a factor,” Burton said.
How You Can Become a Dementia Friend
It’s easy to become a Dementia Friend and help reduce the stigma around this disease. Marty Willman, program director for the Ohio Council for Cognitive Health, has all the information you need to become a Dementia Friend. Simply complete an hour-long session and you’ll be ready to start making a difference. Contact Marty to schedule a session, get a workbook or learn more