Central Minnesota strives to stay dementia friendly

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Cristina Rodriguez will do something she considers fun on her November birthday. She’ll teach people about dementia.  She hopes to train 40 new Dementia Friends in Sauk Rapids on her 40th birthday. She’ll give three presentations that day.  “Central Minnesota is doing fantastic things,” Rodriguez said at the Sartell Community Center after training a small group of Dementia Friends. “But in my hometown of Sauk Rapids, I want to be able to do what I can so that we are a little more dementia friendly, just by having the knowledge of what dementia is, what dementia isn’t.”  That might mean teaching customer service representatives how to interact with someone who’s having trouble paying or getting their words out because they have dementia, she said.  It’s been about five years since Sauk Rapids and Becker signed on as ACT on Alzheimer’s communities, striving to become dementia friendly. St. Cloud followed suit, the St. Cloud Times reported.  “They got a lot done with $10,000, which is all a lot of them had,” said Mary Bauer, community development specialist with the Central Minnesota Council on Aging.  Since then the funding has dried up.  ACT on Alzheimer’s in Central Minnesota is still working on dementia-friendly initiatives but isn’t training as many “dementia friends” now compared to the initial push five years ago.  Dementia-friendly communities, like Sauk Rapids and St. Cloud, did community assessments to identify strengths and gaps in addressing dementia, said Laura Hood, St. Cloud’s aging services director. St. Cloud’s priority is to build awareness about dementia and support unpaid caregivers of people with dementia. And now there are support groups and arts programs.  About 100,000 Minnesotans have Alzheimer’s disease, a common form of dementia. Dementia is not a disease in and of itself. It’s a set of symptoms characterized by memory loss and cognitive decline.

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