Imagine the teller recognizes your confusion and does not get annoyed or frustrated with you. Instead, she walks out from behind the counter to greet you, walks you to a chair, and asks if you’ve come to the bank to put money in your account or to take money out.
This empathetic reaction is what we are aiming to cultivate through our participation in the new Dementia Friendly Initiative, a statewide and national movement in which we have partnered with the Longmeadow Adult Center and JGS Lifecare.
We want to educate members of the public to react with compassion and respect to people living with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia. “We hope to help communities better understand and relate to these individuals,” says Laura Lavoie, our director of life enrichment. “One of our goals is to help ensure that people in our community don’t turn away from someone with dementia. We want them to walk toward, not away.
“We want to take away the stigma of dementia and also show people living with the disease that it is not shameful,” Laura adds. “That’s the kind of thing we hope to accomplish.”
Our Dementia Friendly Longmeadow program kicked off on Jan. 9 at JGS with government officials such as state Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, and state Rep. Brian Ashe in attendance along with leaders from Glenmeadow, the adult center, and JGS. Together, we offered a presentation to help community members understand what the initiative is about and what results could look like.
This coming year, to educate community members—everyone from emergency personnel to bank tellers to cashiers in the grocery store—we will be offering a series of educational events at different locations throughout Longmeadow.
The first event at Glenmeadow, a virtual dementia tour, will be held Wednesday, Feb. 21 for police, fire, and other emergency responders. Later it will be offered to business owners, clergy, town officials, and others who interact frequently with older adults.
To check on the program schedule, visit our Events page. To get on the wait list for a virtual dementia tour, call Laura at 413.355.5905.
Laura is a certified dementia facilitator. Because the material offered during a tour is proprietary, she is not to liberty to discuss all the details. But she can say that trained team members create an environment that simulates the kind of disorientation that people with Alzheimer’s or other dementia often experience.
“It’s a very unique program,” she says. “It offers you the perspective of the people living with substantial dementia. It’s a very powerful thing. You feel empathy, and you’ll understand what they are going through and take that awareness back to your place of work or your home.”
Later, if you lose your patience with someone struggling with dementia, Laura says, “You’re apt to stop and think. You’ll remember the situation you were in in the tour and remember what you were going through and know that you could leave it, and they can’t.”
For more information on the Dementia Friendly Initiative, visit Dementia Friendly America. And keep a watch on our Facebook page, newsletter, and blogs throughout the year to keep the education current.
“We’re trying to help people in the community look at dementia through a more positive lens,” Laura says. “The negative side is the side everyone knows. We’re trying to pull out the positive.”