USA - Dementia Friendly Communities

While the majority of dementia friendly initiatives in the USA have emerged in the past three years, ACT on Alzheimer’s was established in June 2011 as a state-wide initiative to make Minnesota more dementia friendly. The aims of the initiative are to seek promising approaches that reduce costs and improve care, increase diagnosis, sustain and support carers, equip communities to be “dementia capable”, and reduce stigma through awareness raising. Key areas of focus within the initiative are the Dementia Friendly Communities Toolkit, Dementia Friendly @ Work and Dementia Friends. The project relies on local businesses, community groups, individuals and non-profit, governmental and private organisations working together, and now has more than 400 participants across the state, including over 60 organisations. In 2016, the initiative moved from its early, developmental phase to full implementation with a focus on community engagement, health care practice change and health equity integration.

Based on the ACT on Alzheimer’s model, Dementia Friendly America was launched in July 2015 as a collaborative of more than 35 national organisations. This initiative aims to create dementia friendly communities across the country by gaining the support of national organisations from various sectors, which then activate their local branches, affiliates or members to start, join or support dementia friendly community initiatives in their area. Organisations from the non-profit, banking, government, legal, health and pharmaceutical sectors are backing the campaign alongside people with dementia and carers. Resources are provided to support communities to become more dementia friendly and a series of sector guides, best practice tools and a toolkit have been developed. By mid-2017, communities in 28 states were operating using the Dementia Friendly America resources. The initiative has also introduced England’s Dementia Friends model to the USA.

Purple Cities, formed in Knoxville by activities coordinator Kathy Broggy, trains community members and local businesses to become more dementia friendly. The 15-minute training programme includes advice on effectively communicating with people with dementia and offering support while out in the community. Those who complete the training become part of the Purple Cities Alliance. The Purple Cities Advisory Board and Task Force are made up of individuals from more than 40 partner groups and organisations.

The Alzheimer’s & Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin piloted a dementia friendly community programme in the city of Middleton and have since established further initiatives in 5 more communities within the state. A train the trainer programme was developed to equip volunteers with the skills to provide awareness sessions as well as training for businesses, information meetings and quick reference guides.

In 2014, the Chippewa Dementia Friendly Business programme was launched by Chippewa Falls Main Street and Chippewa County Dementia Coalition. The programme involves training service providers to recognise when a person may have dementia and help them to know how they can assist. All service providers who have taken part in the programme can then display a dementia friendly window sticker. The success of the programme has inspired others in communities across Wisconsin to request more details about setting up their own programme.

The Fox Valley Memory Project offers memory assessments, Memory Cafes, community education, workplace enrichment and a host of other resources and services in their dementia friendly community in Appleton, Wisconsin. The Memory Loss Resource Centre is a part of this project and offers a place for people to find out more information, take part in meaningful activities, share their experiences and learn from others.

The Florida Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative has been committed to resolving transportation challenges for people with dementia since the early 1990s, and in 2010, it released a report on the Florida Dementia Friendly Transportation Research Project. The report defined dementia friendly transportation as: ‘Going beyond senior friendliness, a transportation service that considers the special needs of passengers with all stages of memory loss.’ Tip sheets, a training curriculum for transit providers, transportation profiles for several counties, and information about dementia passengers and drivers were among the outcomes of the Florida Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative’s research. They also explored several service delivery models that could better accommodate passengers with dementia.

The TimeSlips Creative Storytelling programme seeks to transform dementia care through creative engagement. Individuals and organisations can be certified in the programme, specifically in engaging people with memory loss. Through improvisation and poetry, TimeSlips gives everyone the opportunity to express themselves and connect with others, regardless of dementia, by ‘replacing the pressure to remember with the freedom to imagine.’   

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