By Amy Moshier
Dementia is a difficult disease to understand, both for the ones who suffers from it, and their loved ones. With the help of a global movement, however, there is great hope for improving both the lives of people who suffer from dementia, and the understanding of it for their loved ones.
Dustin Ziegler, vice president of Community Programs at CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions, has seen firsthand about the many improvements that have occurred so far in Indiana. “Dementia Friends is a global movement that is changing the way people think, act and talk about dementia,” said Ziegler. “The Dementia Friends Indiana initiative launched in central Indiana in 2017 seeks to educate people about dementia, reduce stigmas surrounding it and implement practical changes that create more welcoming environments for those affected by it.”
Dana Robinson, director of Marketing & Communications for CICOA, understands the challenges friends and loved ones experience in trying to help and understand sufferers of dementia. “On a personal level, my mother-in-law suffered for 10 years from Pick’s disease, which is a rare frontotemporal dementia. Although my husband and I were long-distance caregivers, I know the difficulty of taking a loved one out in public, the embarrassment and shame stemming from their erratic behaviors and the stigma associated with the condition,” she said.
“Dementia Friends Indiana exists to create more understanding and awareness about dementia, reduce the stigma associated with the condition and develop welcoming and conducive community environments for those affected by it, as well as their caregivers. This is the largest and most complex condition in the nation, already recognized as being an epidemic. DFI aims to disrupt this misconception about the condition and prepare Indiana communities for the continuously increasing volume of those with the condition,” said Ziegler.
With that said, Ziegler notes accomplishments thus far of this global movement, all of which are actually nationally recognized and first of their kind:
1) Conner Prairie Museum in Fishers is becoming the most dementia friendly museum in the state and possibly even in the nation. This was developed under the guidance and partnership of Dementia Friends Indiana.
2) Indiana Department of Homeland Security, advocated by Dr. Michael Kaufmann, head of EMS for the state of Indiana, recently included dementia training under the umbrella of DFI into the state first responder training platform, meaning thousands of Indiana first responders (policemen, firefighters and EMS) will receive the baseline education and understanding of dementia that allows them to better engage, treat and optimize an encounter with someone with dementia during a first responder incident.
Overall, said Ziegler, the response and feedback about DFI has been overwhelmingly positive. “I have worked in the field of healthcare/dementia my whole career and I can honestly say, without bias, I have never seen anything make a genuine impact, get things done, and create positive changes like I have seen with DFI,” he said.
For Southsiders interested in hearing about how they can become a Dementia Friend, there are meetings Jan. 22 and 25 at 4124 Shelby St., Indianapolis, IN 46227. For more information, go to dementiafriendsindiana.org and dementiafriendsindiana.org/become-a-friend.