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Creating Dementia Friendly Communities

Provided by Alzheimers Coachella Valley

Many communities are engaging in a process to become more dementia friendly.

Patients and caregivers attend the Dementia Friendly Café at PF Chang’s at The River.

A Dementia Friendly Community is a village, town, city or county that is informed, safe and respectful of individuals with Alzheimer’s/ dementia, their families and caregivers and provides supportive options that foster quality of life.

While the idea originated in the UK, the Dementia Friendly America (DFA) movement began in September, 2015 following the White House Conference on Aging and is based upon Minnesota’s statewide successful initiative, ACT on Alzheimer’s. USA’s movement included pilot communities in Denver, CO; Prince George’s County, MD; Santa Clara County, CA; Tempeh, AZ; and the state of West Virginia.

Joining DFA means a community is engaging in a process to become more dementia friendly.

“We are very fortunate in the Coachella Valley,” said Pat Kaplan, co-founder and board member of Alzheimers Coachella Valley. “Six years ago, a coalition of those working with individuals and families living with Alzheimer’s and dementia met to discuss the challenge. The goal was to start a cafe where families and those diagnosed could come together in a safe place to socialize, make new friends and have fun! That became the Dementia Friendly Café which is held every third Wednesday of the month, 3 to 5 p.m. at PF Chang’s at The River, now in its fifth year.” 

“Dementia Friends became a goal in terms of training not only those in the industry but also in the community about what dementia is and what it is not,” she said. “Nobody wants to talk about dementia; nobody wants to admit that a loved one has dementia. It is a taboo. Dementia Friends, however, wishes to reduce the uncomfortable feelings that are associated with the disease.”

Minnesota was the first state to establish a Dementia Friends presence. The Sanctuary at St. Cloud is the first 100 percent-trained dementia-friendly community in the state, according to Cristina Rodriguez, resident engagement director for memory care.

Rodriguez has trained every staff member at The Sanctuary through Dementia Friends sessions, which gives the center a unique distinction among other memory care facilities in the state.

“We do Dementia Friends first, then our dementia education. [Employees of memory care facilities] in the state of Minnesota have to do eight hours of mandatory training annually, and Dementia Friends is above and beyond that,” Rodriguez explained. “It allows all of our staff to understand what dementia is and what it isn’t.”

Dementia Friends informational sessions aim to give participants a better understanding of how individuals with dementia are impacted by the disease and how they can take practical action to help support those living with dementia.

To help communities work towards becoming dementia friendly, DFA offers technical assistance, including a community toolkit, sector specific guidance and best practices synthesized from across the world.

“I defy anyone dropping in to our Dementia Friendly Cafe to know who is the diagnosed and who is the caregiver,” remarked Kaplan. “It is an uplifting experience and a start to having our own Dementia Friendly Community.”

Visit for more information about DFA and call (760) 341.1095 for the local Dementia Friendly Cafe.

Sources:1); 2) “Memory care community boosts dementia program,” by Alyssa Zaczek, St. Cloud Times, USA TODAY NETWORK.

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