Defeat the dementia stigma by becoming a Dementia Friend

Defeat the dementia stigma by becoming a Dementia Friend

BLADEN COUNTY, NC (WECT) - You can be a part growing movement of people helping community members living with dementia.

The program is called Dementia Friends USA. It’s a nationwide public awareness initiative to help those living with dementia get the help they need from people in their very own community. Around 5.7 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s in 2018.

Dementia Friends began in the United Kingdom in 2013 and is run by Alzheimer’s Society. By December 2014, it reached 1.4 million Dementia. The next target it to reach four million by next year.

Those living with dementia sometimes need help throughout their daily lives. To provide the help they need, Dementia Friends wants to give community members an understanding of the disease and the small things they can do to make a difference.

Dementia Friends USA Friendly Community Info-graphic. (source: Dementia Friends USA)
Dementia Friends USA Friendly Community Info-graphic. (source: Dementia Friends USA)

Dementia Friends USA is run on a state-by-state basis. There are over 30,000 Dementia Friends registered in the U.S.

Kelly Robeson, the Director of Bladen County’s Division of Aging, brought the program to the community late 2018. She was trained by a Master Dementia Friends Trainer and became a Champion, which allows her to train people to become Dementia Friends. So far, there are 65 Dementia Friends in Bladen County and surrounding areas.

“It [Dementia Friends] kinds of gives you an idea of what to spot," says Robeson. "If you’re in the grocery store and you see someone who is standing there and they look confused or they just have this look on their face like they just can’t figure out what they’re supposed to do, it gives people the wherewithal to go up to them and say, ‘can I help you in someway?’”

The Dementia Friends program focuses on five key messages that we believe everyone should know about dementia:

  1. Dementia is not a natural part of aging.
  2. Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain.
  3. It is not just about losing your memory.
  4. It’s possible to live well with dementia.
  5. There is more to the person than the dementia. 

To become a Dementia Friend, you have to attend a one-hour information session. The session includes those five key messages along with various activities. At the end the session, each person commits to a personal action.

“Very, very small things can actually make a difference in the families and communities of people living with dementia,” says Robeson.

There have been five Dementia Friends information sessions in Bladen County since the program was brought to the area. There is no age limit and it’s free to participate.

There is a Dementia Friend information session Friday, Feb. 22 at the Bladen County Division of Aging & Senior Center in Elizabethtown. The session starts at 2 p.m., but you must reserve a spot. To do that, please call 910-872-6330

If you are unable to make it to an information session the training is available online. Click here for details.

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