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Understanding dementia better facilitates care

By RALANDA SMALLFELT - For The Shelbyville News

As the number of Indiana residents affected by dementia continues to grow, so does the need for communities to better understand dementia and better accommodate the challenges of those affected by the diseases that cause it.

The Dementia Friends Indiana initiative – an outreach of Dementia Friendly America – seeks 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 for their loved ones.

Each sector of a community has a unique role to play in contributing toward dementia friendliness, whether it is a hospital or health care settings, a business or retail locations, community-based services, faith communities, local government or residential care.

Recognizing that Shelby County has a growing older population, we need to prepare all sectors in our community to address the growing opportunities and needs faced by people with the dementia, their families, caregivers, employers, and community as a whole.

On Feb. 18, Shelby Senior Services hosted Ashford Place and the Virtual Dementia tour to kick off our Dementia Friends Shelby County initiative. Sixteen participants including Mayor Tom DeBaun, Kim Koehl, and representatives from Major Health Partners, the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce, the Shelby County Public Library and others took part in this opportunity. We hope to have other dates available to more people in the near future.

The Virtual Dementia Tour is a ground-breaking, evidence-based, and scientifically proven method of building a greater understanding of dementia. The VDT uses patented sensory tools and instruction based on research conducted by P.K. Beville, M.S., a specialist in geriatrics. During a Virtual Dementia Tour experience, trained facilitators guide participants outfitted with patented devices that alter their senses while they try to complete common everyday tasks and exercises.

The Tour enables caregivers to experience for themselves the physical and mental challenges those with dementia face, and use the experience to provide better person-centered care.

​The truth is that when dementia strikes, it strikes the whole community, not just the individual. The Virtual Dementia Tour was also developed to provide a way for members of the community to have a glimpse into the world of dementia … and then develop their own recommendations for their business, family, or anywhere that dementia is experienced.

Shelby Seniors Services, in the months to come, will be Shelby County’s community lead helping to champion the Dementia Friends movement and coordinate Shelby County’s involvement.