September is World Alzheimer’s Month. Each year, Alzheimer’s Disease International (www.alz.co.uk) issues a report to raise awareness of the disease and its impact on families. According to this year’s report, the cost of dementia care has increased by 35 percent in just five years. Says the report, “If global dementia care were a country, it would be the 18th largest economy in the world, and would exceed the market values of companies such as Apple (US $742 billion) and Google (US $368 billion).”
Dementia care burdens nations, communities and, especially, people with dementia and their families. Indeed, a recent survey conducted by University of Buffalo researchers found that most people with dementia and those caring for them would rather see money spent on care and support than on research for a cure.
During the recent White House Conference on Aging, a new initiative was unveiled that aims to help the 5 million Americans who are now living with Alzheimer’s, and the many millions more expected to follow. The Dementia Friendly America Initiative (www.dfamerica.org) aims to foster cities, counties, businesses and states that are “informed, safe and respectful of individuals with dementia and their families” and “provide supportive options and foster quality of life.”
“Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can be devastating to American families, but we are not powerless to support those living with the disease, their caregivers and loved ones,” said Senator Bill Frist, national spokesperson for Dementia Friendly America. “Starting in these communities, we’re building a nationwide effort to educate Americans about dementia, equip business owners and first responders to recognize and assist those with memory loss, and empower people with Alzheimer’s and dementia to engage independently and safely in community life for as long as possible.”
Currently, the communities include Tempe, AZ; Santa Clara County, CA; Denver, CO; Prince George’s County, MD; Knoxville, TN; and the state of West Virginia. Working with businesses, faith communities, health care organizations and other entities, these communities have the goals of:
- Raising awareness about dementia and transforming attitudes
- Having supportive options that foster quality of life
- Supporting caregivers and families touched by the disease
- Promoting meaningful participation in community life
- Reaching those who are underserved
“Becoming dementia friendly must be a priority for all of our hometowns in order to remove stigma, enable people with Alzheimer’s to come out of the shadows and engage in their communities, and help families effectively manage all that comes with the critical task of caregiving,” said George Vradenburg, founder of USAgainstAlzheimer’s, a major catalyst behind the inception of the new initiative. “This hometown Dementia Friendly America initiative sends a message to American families experiencing dementia: ‘You are not alone, we are your neighbors, we care about you, and we want to help’.”
Source: IlluminAge AgeWise reporting on materials from Dementia Friendly America andAlzheimer’s Disease International.
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