Minnesota and many of its towns and municipalities are some of the first areas of the United States that are attempting to become "dementia friendly." Businesses and local governments are being taught how to help people who have lost some of their memory or cognitive function.
Other American cities including Denver and Tempe, AZ, have committed to becoming dementia friendly. Prince George's County in Maryland, Santa Clara County in California and the state of West Virginia have also joined the movement, as have countries such as Scotland and Ireland.
The need for dementia friendly communities is growing. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer's disease, although there are other types. Dementia is a term that means a decline in mental ability that is severe enough to interfere with everyday life. There are an estimated 5.3 million people with Alzheimer's disease in the United States, with another person developing the disease every 67 seconds, according to the Alzheimer's association. The number of people with Alzheimer's is expected to reach 7.1 million in the next 10 years.
In Minnesota, a website offers advice on how to be dementia friendly. The site has training videos and statistics about dementia. You can read more about making a community dementia friendly here and here.
One example of a town that is committing to the idea of being dementia friendly is Watertown, WI. The town, with a population of about 15,000, is aiming to have as many businesses as possible learn how to serve people who have memory or cognitive problems. For example, store employees are taught how to avoid getting impatient with customers who get confused. Lawyers and business owners are trained in giving several shorter explanations of a service rather than one long one.
Watertown holds a monthly "Memory Cafe," that serves as a support and social group for people with dementia along with their caretakers. The town's goal is to have 75% of businesses and services trained in helping those with dementia by next year. A purple angel in a store or business window signals that the establishment is dementia friendly.