An Alzheimer’s Friendly America

Huge strides were made this month during the White House’s Conference on Aging as communities from across the nation committed to provide care and support for those living with dementia, their caregivers and families.  Over 5 million people in American are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.  Within the next 10 years, that number is expected to reach 7 million.  Groups and organizations have been bringing the battle against Alzheimer’s to our lawmakers for many years now.  The latest program, Dementia Friendly America (DFA) is gaining strength and loyalty from communities all over this country, large and small, from entire states to counties to individual towns, including:

  • Tempe, AZ
  • Santa Clara County, CA
  • Denver, CO
  • Prince George’s County, MD
  • Knoxville, TN
  • West Virginia

The DFA defines their initiative as

“…a cross-sector, national effort leveraging tailored resources and tools to equip all community sectors to support those with dementia and their caregivers and families. By 2016, the Dementia Friendly America initiative will pilot 15 dementia friendly communities across the nation. ”


Senator Bill Frist is the national spokesperson for DFA.  He explains the groups initiative, saying that, “…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.”  The DFA initiative has targeted community organizations, groups, businesses and government and is working toward:

  • 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

Though the DFA is working methodically, setting goals for the near future, the ultimate achievement is to make the United States a “dementia friendly” country overall.   State involvement will be crucial to bridging the gap between individual communities and the country as a whole.  Illinois, through the Alzheimer’s Association, has been working on their own plan to achieve a state wide initiative.  They have created a public policy:

“A “Dementia-Capable State” means that Illinois and its long term care services, community-based services and dementia support systems have:

  • The ability to identify people with dementia and their caregivers
  • Information, referral, safety and service coordination that provides person -centered services to people with dementia and their caregivers
  • Eligibility criteria for public programs that are equitable for people with dementia
  • Access to appropriate services for people with dementia and their caregivers
  • A rebalanced approach with a variety of service options for those with dementia ranging from strong home and community based services to quality skilled nursing care
  • A professional healthcare workforce that is knowledgeable about dementia as well as how to serve people with the disease and their caregivers
  • A coordinated public health system that embraces cognitive health as a priority and invests in its promotion through monitoring and evaluation, education and empowerment, developing policy and mobilizing partnerships, and assuring a competent work force.
  • Quality assurance systems that take into account the unique needs of people with dementia and their caregivers
  • Expanded Alzheimer’s and other dementia research through appropriate state revenue generation and disbursement opportunities

As with any and all changes in culture and, especially government, things move slowly.  Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s cases are rising at a rapid rate and we do not have time for slow changes.  The best way to get these changes made is to stand together as communities, taking care of our own, while state and federal agencies catch up.

Do you care for or know someone with Alzheimer’s? How has it affected their life? The lives of their families?  Did they have any outside support?