In Paynesville, Minnesota, seniors with dementia are welcomed in the community as volunteers help buy their groceries, assisted caregivers, and are prepared to interact with elders who suffer from Alzheimers. All this can be attributed to the young, nonprofit organization, Act On Alzheimers.
Act On Alzheimers is more than educating the masses about dementia, but creating actionable knowledge around dementia. In Paynesville, businesses and first responders are trained to interact and provide care for seniors with dementia. This way, should they find an elder wandering or struggling with their memory, citizens know how to respond.
All of this is made possible by the efforts of Act On Alzheimers. They have bi-monthly volunteer days where citizens can spend time with dementia ridden elders, buy groceries for their caregivers, or any number of things to help make the community safe. This movement has already gained traction and is spreading throughout Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Florida. The end goal is to have a dementia-friendly America.
Alzheimer’s Disease Statistics
In 2015, over 5.1 million Americans suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, that number is expected to double by 2035 — and it’s only going to increase.
For seniors aged 65 and over, one in nine will be diagnosed with Alzheimers; worse, when those seniors reach age 85 and above, that ratio jumps to one in three with be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Alzheimers is the most common cause of dementia, a cluster of symptoms that result in memory loss, mood swings, personality changes, paranoia, and a slew of other conditions. It’s a terrifying disease that can (and often does) cause depression. Many seniors already feel that they are a burden to their adult children, so when they are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (an incurable disease), they lose hope. Many suffer depression and become reclusive. This only causes their condition to worsen with time.
However, with Act On Alzheimers’ movement to create dementia-friendly communities, seniors are able to embrace and be embraced by their community. They have the comfort of knowing that should they experience a particularly traumatic symptom, the people around them are there to help.
This helps all parties involved. For seniors, they can feel cared for and understood by the community. For adult children living far away, they can sleep soundly knowing their elder is in good hands. For caregivers who provide around-the-clock care, they can finally get a good night’s sleep and eat properly with volunteers completing various tasks for them and also shouldering some of the responsibility.
By creating a community educated in how to interact and treat people with dementia, you divide the responsibilities between everyone, making it much easier for everyone to bear the burden of dementia. Hopefully, we see this movement take flight and spread across America and around the globe.