November is both National Alzheimer’s Awareness month and National Family Caregivers month. This is the perfect time to highlight the cruel disease of Alzheimer’s, a form of dementia that impacts memory, thinking, and behavior.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 6 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s and by 2050, this number is projected to rise to nearly 13 million! Currently, 10 percent of the 6 million Americans that have Alzheimer’s live in Florida! It is estimated that Sumter county alone (where I live) has over 10,000 individuals that have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. and is the most common form of dementia in 60-80 percent of all diagnosed cases.
With November being National Family Caregivers month this also gives us the opportunity to recognize the family caregivers that provide care, and love to those affected by this disease. According to the CDC, more than 16 million Americans provide more than 17 billion hours of unpaid care for family and friends with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Our wonderful senior community of The Villages has the opportunity, ability, and resources to become a leader in developing and maintaining itself in what I would like to think of as a “dementia forward community”. This concept of being a “dementia forward community” would promote action to foster the quality of life for people living with dementia and their caregivers by decreasing stigma, offering support in addressing the changing needs of people living with dementia and their caregivers and increasing opportunities for meaningful social interaction (i.e. memory cafes, respite environments, support groups, specialized house of worship services and activities, etc), A “dementia forward community” would involve the entire community including residents, community leaders, business leaders, organizations, groups, clubs, and houses of worship.
Using just one example of houses of worship, while some of these entities have initiated programs/activities within their establishments by starting memory cafes, respite services, support groups, education programs and specialized worship services for those affected with dementia and their caregivers, the vast majority have not broadened their approach to help keep their members that are suffering from dementia and their caregivers both physically and mentally engaged and supported.
The Villages currently offers a variety of wonderful support services for individuals with dementia and their caregivers through many different entities, but we must vastly improve and increase our efforts in order to better serve these individuals.
It will take a village to achieve the concept of becoming a “dementia forward community” – but what better place than our beautiful community of The Villages to become a leader in this area?
Carol Ann Wolf is a Village of Hemingway resident. She is a retired healthcare executive that volunteers in a variety of different areas within The Villages relating to dementia, including community education. She is on the Board of Directors for the non-profit Our Moment Cafe, Inc. which provides social engagement (i.e. memory cafes), education, and support for caregivers and their loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia.