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Involving communities in the care and engagement of neighbors with dementia Bookmark

Involving communities in the care and engagement of neighbors with dementia

Friday, Sept. 21, 2018 is observed as World Alzheimer’s Day to raise awareness and challenge the stigma that surrounds dementia. Dementia is one of the most feared medical conditions in America. The word dementia is a broad term for brain failure that happens gradually and affects everyone differently. There are many types of dementia; Alzheimer’s disease is perhaps the best-known type, affecting more than 210,000 Ohioans. However, we don’t know how prevalent all types of dementia are because they are often misdiagnosed or because those who experience symptoms are so scared of a diagnosis that they do not talk to their health care professionals about it. Since the leading risk factor is age, we can expect the number of people living with dementia to grow as our population ages.

While finding a cure is certainly a priority, we must not ignore that there are hundreds of thousands of Ohioans who are focused on the day-to-day challenges of living with or caring for someone with dementia. Tough, personal decisions are made daily, ranging from giving up things we once enjoyed doing, to quitting or changing jobs to care for a loved one, to worrying about whether someone is safe in his or her own home. Help may seem hard to find or difficult to access when your number-one concern is the minute-to-minute health and safety of yourself or a loved one.

That’s why we're excited about an innovative partnership being piloted in northwest Ohio. State officials and local groups have created a coordinated system of resources and education for both families and local focal points to support people with dementia and include them as vital members of the community. The program connects people and their caregivers to care consultants, who can discuss their diagnosis with them and describe the local services and supports available. The care consultants also reach out to businesses and offices in the community that people with dementia may visit to offer training and enhance staff members’ abilities to understand how best to serve individuals and families living with dementia.

At the Ohio Department of Aging, we believe that communities are stronger when they consider the unique needs of their older residents and their families in their plans, services and business models. Empowering communities to do that is one of our core values. This program is an example of the types of dementia strategies we have integrated into Ohio’s comprehensive State Plan on Aging.

Primary funding for the partnership is provided by the federal Administration for Community Living with funding support and project administration from the Ohio Department of Aging, Area Agency on Aging 3, the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging and the Ohio Council for Cognitive Health. It holds a lot of potential for northwest Ohio and could stand as an example for the rest of the state to emulate. To learn more, please call Allison Stehlik at the Area Agency on Aging at 1-800-653-7723.

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