Grassroots movement aims to reduce Dementia stigma

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Dementia Friends of Indiana and CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions will conduct an informational event at 2 p.m. Jan. 22 at Lebanon Public Library, 104 E. Washington St., Lebanon.

The Dementia Friends initiative, a global movement to destigmatize cognitive diseases, began in the U.K. and expanded to Indiana in 2015 as an extension of the Dementia Friendly America program. It aims to educate communities across the state about dementia, break down the stigma surrounding dementia and implement practical changes that make life easier to navigate for those with dementia and their loved ones.

“These events are designed to better prepare and educate our communities about dementia, so people in the communities know how to better interact with, welcome and engage people with the disease,” said Dustin Ziegler, director of community programs at CICOA. “It’s so prevalent. We are going to be seeing more and more of it and there is a pretty big knowledge gap.”

Dementia is a broad category of brain diseases that cause a long-term and often gradual decrease in the ability to think and remember. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Similar diseases include Lewy body dementia, Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease dementia, among others.

Ziegler said the biggest dementia risk factor is age, and the largest population is becoming the oldest population. In addition to the fact that people are living longer than ever before, diseases affecting brain function are expected to rise.

“The prevalence is so high and the condition is rapidly rising,” Ziegler said. “Right now, the numbers show 5.5 million people with dementia, and that number is expected to triple over the next couple of decades.”

The informational events are free and community-based. CICOA is the state administrator for the grassroots, volunteer-led Dementia Friends program. Anson Senior Living played a support role in scheduling the event, where attendees will learn the basics about dementia from Melinda Winnie, community programs coordinator at CICOA.

“The basics are the most crucial knowledge for this disease,” Ziegler said. “But even if somebody already has high-level knowledge of Dementia, we encourage people to get involved in the movement so they can take action to create these communities and environments that are more welcoming.”

Attendees also will learn about the caregiver component.

“It’s a very complex disease for caregivers,” Ziegler said. “Part of the movement purpose is reducing the isolation and withdrawal that people face as a result of the condition.”

For more and to register for the event, visit dementiafriendsindiana.org.

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