Earlier this summer I stopped by my bank to cash a check. As soon as I entered the lobby I heard an elderly man shouting at a cashier. “This bank is a bunch of crooks,” he yelled, demanding the cashier to give him all of his money and close his account. A petite woman, who I assumed was his wife, stood beside the man looking frustrated and embarrassed. I quickly realized this was a man living with some form of dementia.
As I stood there wondering if there was something I could do to help, a woman approached from a nearby office. That’s when I had the opportunity to witness a textbook-perfect example of how to communicate with a person who has dementia. With grace and patience, she reassured and redirected the man. Within a few minutes, he was calmly sitting in her office enjoying a cup of coffee and a cookie.
When it was my turn at the counter, I told the cashier how very impressed I was with the way this woman handled the situation. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every business could employ people who understand and know how to support people living with dementia? This is the goal of cities across the country that are becoming “Dementia Friendly Communities”.
These communities strive to assist people living with dementia to:
- Remain as independent as possible.
- Feel safe and comfortable when out in the community.
- Find support for themselves and their companions/caregivers.
- Participate in meaningful activities within the community.
Here are some of the ways these communities meet their goals:
- Help churches and other faith communities create welcoming environments for people living with dementia. Identify ways to offer spiritual care for people who may have difficulty leaving their homes.
- Support the development of Memory Cafes in the community.
- Provide alternative transportation options for people who are no longer able to drive. Encourage dementia education for public transportation drivers.
- Offer dementia education in schools.
- Recruit volunteers to help people with grocery shopping or provide companionship while a family member shops.
- Encourage providers of financial and legal services to help prevent vulnerable people from becoming victims of fraud.
- Distribute pamphlets about dementia in libraries, clinics, and other community settings.
- Provide dementia education for first responders such as police, fire, and ambulance staff.
- Offer dementia education to businesses and share ideas for environmental changes such as lighting, noise, layout, and signage.
- Increase access to safety technology such as smoke alarms, fall detectors, and spam phone call blockers.
- Provide volunteer respite care to give caregivers/companions a break.
I highly recommend these resources to help people in your community understand the experience of living with dementia: