A public gathering at Roseville City Hall, 2660 Civic Center Drive, Thursday, April 23, will start a summer-long project aimed at helping people in the area build new skills and confidence so they can better assist people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Called Roseville ACT on Alzheimer’s, the volunteer-led project seeks to deepen knowledge about Alzheimer’s and dementia among families, neighbors and businesses, to reduce the stigma often associated with dementia and increase services for area families dealing with those conditions.
The kick-off event will be 1-3 p.m. in the City Council chambers. Organizers will introduce a series of programs that will start the following week. In addition, those at the event will see videotaped interviews with local people discussing the impact dementia has had on their families.
ACT activities this year will focus on eight presentations by experts April 28-May 21 and again in the fall, a series of four movies about people coping with dementia, and opportunities for volunteers to help expand programs serving area families dealing with dementia.
The project is the most ambitious one undertaken by the Roseville Alzheimer’s and Dementia Community Action Team (Roseville A/D), a collaboration of several dozen community members, city and school officials, business leaders and service providers. Roseville A/D was organized in 2013 to help the city prepare for increasing numbers of residents with dementia diseases.
While the ACT project is focused on Roseville, “the same information and resources are relevant to people wherever they live,” said Sara Barsel, a co-founder of Roseville A/D. “Our programs are free and open to everyone. We encourage anyone interested or concerned about dementia to attend.”
About 90,000 Minnesotans have some type of dementia—including 750 people in Roseville—roughly one in nine age 65 and older. The number is expected to reach 120,000 in 10 years as the population ages. Alzheimer’s, accounting for about 70 percent of dementia, is a progressive disease of the brain that affects memory, judgment, speech and ability to do everyday tasks. There is no known cure.
Part of statewide effort
Roseville ACT is one of 34 projects statewide intended to help create more dementia-friendly communities. That concept focuses on building awareness, education and skills so that those with dementia can continue to live as independently as possible as part of the community, helped by families, friends, neighbors and businesses.
The project received a national award in March from the Family Caregiver Alliance during the American Society on Aging national conference in Chicago. Officials of several national groups are working on plans to make ACT a national program.
“We need to learn how to face our discomfort and talk with each other about dementia,” said Deb Nygaard, a volunteer with the project and director of development at Arthur’s Residential Care in Roseville. “With ACT, we want to help people realize that there are ways each of us can help people with Alzheimer’s and their families.”
Talks by local experts
A series of eight presentations by local experts will begin April 28 for four weeks.
On Tuesdays, April 28-May 19, 6:30-7:30 p.m., presentations will focus on dementia and the healthy brain at the Fairview Community Center, 1910 W. County Road B.
Topics and presenters will be Healthy Brain (Carolyn Klaver, Lyngblomsten); Dementia vs. Normal Aging (Amy House, Senior Helpers Home Care); Virtual Dementia Tour (Deb Nygaard, Arthur’s Residential Care); and Dementia-Friendly ACTion Steps (Kathryn Ringham and Kathy Kehrberg, Wilder Foundation Memory Club).
On Thursdays, April 30-May 21, 1-2:30 p.m., speakers will discuss caregiving issues and techniques at Roseville City Hall.
Caregiver topics will be How Dementia Affects the Brain (Amy House); Practical Tips for Avoiding Power Struggles (Deb Nygaard); Becoming an Alzheimer’s Whisperer (Holly Eide, HealthStar Home Health); and Caregiver Stress/Burnout (Lori La Bey, founder of Alzheimer’s Speaks).
In addition to the educational programs, Roseville ACT is seeking volunteers to help expand two services for area people with dementia and their families. Both will train volunteers before they start.
The Gathering, coordinated by Lyngblomsten, needs volunteers to help in its day program at Centennial United Methodist Church in Roseville. It provides activities and social stimulation for people with early to mid-stages of memory loss and offers a caregiver-support group. There are 20 clients on its waiting list.
P.S. I Understand is a peer-support program of Wilder Caregiver Services that matches current caregivers of people with dementia and former caregivers who have been away from caregiving for two years.
Other Roseville A/D projects
Before starting the project, Roseville A/D helped launch a series of smaller projects aimed at helping people in the area gain more knowledge about Alzheimer’s and dementia, including public presentations, dementia-screening clinics and other events.
It also worked with the city to start and maintain a dementia-information section on the city of Roseville website—believed one of the few in the nation.
The work of the Roseville volunteers will not end with the ACT project, according to co-founder Barsel, who is active in many community efforts, including a study about whether or not a Roseville block-nurse program for older and disabled people should be reestablished.
For more information about the Roseville ACT on Alzheimer’s project, go to the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Information page at www.ci.roseville.mn.us/2721/Alzheimers-Dementia.
Warren Wolfe retired from the Star Tribune after writing about aging issues for 21 years. He and his wife, Sheryl Fairbanks, are former family caregivers for parents with dementia and are active in the Roseville ACT on Alzheimer’s project.