Is Your Town “Dementia Friendly”?

In Watertown, Wisconsin, several local businesses display small purple angel decals in their windows. The decals indicate that the employees inside have been trained in how to recognize customers with dementia and how to best assist them and their caregivers.

Jan Zimmerman, a nurse in a senior living community in Watertown, initiated the effort and envisions a community where residents are fully educated about dementia, business owners are trained on how to assist customers with memory loss, and people with dementia remain independent for as long as possible.

According to Zimmerman, the participating businesses are part of a “broader effort to educate the town’s 24,000 residents about dementia and to keep those who have the condition engaged in the community by providing the services they need.”

How does it work? People in Watertown who are living with dementia can pick up pocket-sized cards intended to be carried by people with memory loss and presented at retail establishments at monthly support meetings. The cards read: “Thank you for your patience. I am memory impaired and may require a few extra moments. Your cooperation and understanding is much appreciated.” The cards are a subtle way people can signal their situation without having to announce it publicly.

Businesses in the town can take advantage of no-cost, on-site training for their employees, and those that complete training can display a purple angel in their window. Shops with purple angels then make special accommodations for their customers. In the Connection Cafe, a coffee shop similar to Starbucks with trained staff, baristas might encourage those patrons with memory loss to simply point to which size of coffee they want. And at the local bank, employees have been trained to look for signs that customers have been scammed.

The concept of making communities dementia-friendly is spreading in Europe but is just beginning to take hold in the United States. Currently, more than 50 groups have joined in the ACT on Alzheimer’s collaboration to help additional U.S. communities prepare for growing numbers of residents with dementia. According to Lori La Bey, executive director of Alzheimer’s Speaks, “I think it’s going to continue to expand. People are seeing the need, and this does not have to cost a lot of money or take a lot of time.”

Persons with dementia and their families face special legal and financial needs. At The Fairfax and Fredericksburg Dementia Planning Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C., we are dedicated to easing the financial and emotional burden on those suffering from dementia and their loved ones.  If you have a loved one who is suffering from dementia, we can help you prepare for your future financial and long-term care needs.  We help protect the family’s hard-earned assets while maintaining your loved one’s comfort, dignity, and quality of life by ensuring eligibility for critical government benefits. If you have not done Long-Term Care Planning, Estate Planning or Incapacity Planning (or had your Planning documents reviewed in the past several years), or if you have a loved one who is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care, call us at 703-691-1888 in Fairfax or 540-479-1435 in Fredericksburg to make an appointment for an introductory consultation.

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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