In August 2014, Mayor Mark Mitchell turned a personal family struggle with Alzheimer’s and dementia into a public commitment to ensure that Tempe is a “dementia-friendly” city.
Today at the White House Conference on Aging, that became an even more high-profile cause as Tempe was named one of six locations across the country selected to pilot what will eventually be a nationwide effort to designate communities as dementia friendly.
A dementia-friendly community is defined as one that is informed, safe and respectful of individuals with dementia and their families, provides supportive options, and fosters quality of life.
Mayor Mitchell, who became involved in this issue after his mother was diagnosed with Alzheimers and dementia, was pleased with the announcement.
“Few things are as personal and as difficult as supporting a loved one who has dementia or Alzheimers,” said Mitchell. “As a part of this program, Tempe can now follow a clear plan of action that will make our city a safer place for our residents who suffer from this terrible disease.”
In 2015, there are an estimated 120,000 people with Alzheimer’s disease living in Arizona and this number is projected to rise to 200,000 in the next decade, creating an urgent need to support people with dementia and their caregivers.
“Millions of families across our nation feel the impact of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia each day,” said Dr. Bill Burke, Director of the Stead Family Memory Center at the Banner Health Alzheimer’s Institute. “Banner Alzheimer’s Institute is proud to be involved with Dementia Friendly America to help address this crisis and give help and hope to those facing Alzheimer’s and dementia.”
Led by the Dementia Friendly America initiative (DFA), Tempe will be taking action by leveraging tailored resources in business, community-based services and supports, faith communities, health care communities, legal and financial services, local government and residential settings. The work toward dementia friendliness will involve:
• Raising awareness about dementia and transforming attitudes
• Having supportive options that foster quality of life
• Supporting caregivers and families touched by the disease
• Promoting meaningful participation in community life
• Reaching those who are underserved
Tempe joins communities from across the nation in today’s announcement including: Santa Clara County, CA; Denver, CO; Prince George’s County, MD; Knoxville, TN; and the state of West Virginia.
“Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can be devastating to American families, but we are not powerless to support those living with the disease, their caregivers and loved ones,” said Senator Bill Frist, national spokesperson for Dementia Friendly America. “Starting in these communities, we’re building a nationwide effort to educate Americans about dementia, equip business owners and first responders to recognize and assist those with memory loss, and empower people with Alzheimer’s and dementia to engage independently and safely in community life for as long as possible.”
Dementia Friendly America is building on the leadership of ACT on Alzheimer’s and 34 dementia-friendly communities in Minnesota it created. The model employed in Minnesota includes a rigorous, community-based process that brings people together to help a community create a supportive environment for people with dementia. More than 50 organizations – including AARP, the Alzheimer’s Association, CVS/Caremark, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National League of Cities, and USAgainstAlzheimer’s – have joined forces to make dementia friendly communities a reality across America through DFA with the goal of piloting 15 communities by 2016.
As of 2014 there were 314,000 Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers in Arizona, generating 357 million hours of unpaid care. Additionally, the physical and emotional impact of dementia caregiving is estimated to have resulted in an incremental $155 million in health care spending on caregivers in 2014 alone.
DFA is set to launch a web-portal in late summer, which will include sector-specific tools and resources for those interested in working toward dementia friendliness. Those interested in learning more about the initiative are encouraged to visit the website, www.dfamerica.org, which will be updated on an ongoing basis as the tools and resources are being developed.