Love is All You Need – Creating a Dementia Friendly Community

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Maybe the Beatles had it right after all. Can creating a dementia friendly community and age friendly community really be as simple as giving love? Our guest today is Jennifer Mallamo, speaking about her involvement with the Dementia Friendly Communities Pilot Project, here in Alberta. Jennifer is a lovely person, who also works as a Companion/Care Manager for persons living with dementia. There are rich personal insights shared in our conversation, especially at the end when we both realize that in a roundabout way, our grandmothers ultimately taught us the original message behind today’s episode: the importance of sharing love with others in this world. That’s what life is all about. 

What Is A Dementia Friendly Community?

It is a city, a town, a group – any version of “community” that is offering support through their own action and services. It’s people coming together to create “systems change” to improve life for those living with, or affected by, dementia in their local circles. This particular Dementia Friendly Communities project, was a collaboration between The Brenda Strafford Foundation, Government of Alberta, Alberta Health Services, and Alberta Innovates.

“Dementia is everybody’s business and impacts everyone in the community. Chances are we all know someone who is living with or impacted by dementia, either in our own families, or in the wider community within which we live, work and socialize. By mobilizing the community to better understand and support the needs of those living with dementia, and their caregivers, it will positively impact their lives and enable them to live in their own homes and stay active in the community for as long as possible.”

Everyone in a community can benefit from being more inclusive of those with dementia

-Dementia Friendly Communities Pilot Project, presented by the Brenda Strafford Foundation.

The main goals of a Dementia Friendly Community are:

  • To build community capacity to support individuals to age-in-place and remain in the community for as long as possible
  • To raise awareness of dementia with the aim to reduce stigma associated with dementia

How can your community become dementia-friendly?

There are several important action steps shared around how to successfully create a dementia friendly community, wherever YOU are in the world. Here they are:

  1. Gather like-minded people. When starting a project from the ground up, we know how important it is to have strong champions on board. You have to find those with passion to take action! And then put it to work by forming a strong committee.  
  2. Engage with local businesses, and let the community guide you. Sometimes your champions aren’t who you expect them to be. They actually end up being the last person you’d think of to get behind the topic. So make sure you take the time to listen and ask your questions to a wide variety of people and groups in your area.
  3. Form intergenerational partnerships. Don’t leave out the youth and young adults in your community. Students look for causes to get behind and there are many young people looking to be a leader in their own circles, specifically around making life better for persons living with dementia.
  4. It’s critical to include the voice of persons living with dementia, their families, and their care partners. Get input from the experts. Simple as that.
  5. Get to know the people behind the project. Your approach to working with community partners is the same as working with someone living with dementia. Mirror the process. Really it’s about really knowing your partner. Knowing when to step back. Knowing when to take action alongside the individual. It’s taking those partners alongside you in the work and recognizing when the task is becoming a burden or overwhelming.

I think really, our largest action step to walk away with today was in the wise words Jennifer shared around treating others with love, patience, dignity and respect. Regardless if that’s your family, your neighbor or a collaborative partner on a project as large as building a dementia friendly community. It’s about providing hope and making a difference in each and every moment. 

Questions about this project?  dfc@thebsf.ca

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SHOW NOTES:

Dementia Friendly Communities, the pilot project and FREE guide.

Brenda Strafford Foundation, Calgary, AB

Music by Blue Dot Sessions “OneEightFour”

Photo by chester wade on Unsplash