Forum brings Roseville closer to ‘dementia-friendly’ action plan

A Roseville group has begun shaping a plan to help the community become “dementia friendly,” following a public forum this fall where 53 people offered advice on what to do.

“We’re very happy with the energy and thoughtful ideas that came out of the forum,” said Kitty Gogins, who coordinates the Roseville ACT on Alzheimer’s volunteer group. “Now we’re ready to make some decisions and put together a plan for what actions to take.”

Those actions could go in several directions. Among suggestions: Within a year, Roseville might find itself home to a program training scores of residents and business employees as “dementia friends” ready to step forward to help people with Alzheimer’s and their families. Or it might see ecumenical religious services for people affected by memory loss, or one or two local nonprofit groups serving as the first place to call for help getting access to memory-care services.

Begun early this year, the ACT on Alzheimer’s project was launched by the Roseville Alzheimer’s and Dementia Community Action Team as one of its initiatives to help people in the city become more effective neighbors, friends and businesses to cope with the rising number of people with dementia, now estimated at about 750 in Roseville.

Those attending the Oct. 21 forum at the Roseville Community Center suggested that the ACT group focus on three major areas: Increase services for people with dementia and their caregivers; increase community awareness of dementia and reduce the stigma surrounding Alzheimer’s and similar diseases; and make it easier for anyone to make referrals to helpful resources.

“Most of us want to be helpful for people with Alzheimer’s, but we don’t always know what to do, what to say,” said Colleen Lehn, a realtor based in Vadnais Heights who sells houses in Roseville and other northern suburbs.

“That’s true for businesses, too,” Lehn said. “Most businesses have customers who may have Alzheimer’s or families who are caring for people with dementia. A little training would make me feel more comfortable, more effective.”

On average, dementia occurs in one of nine people age 65 and older and one of three 85 and older. In Minnesota, an estimated 95,000 people have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. That is expected to grow to 110,000 in 10 years as the number of older people continues to swell. Those numbers convinced a coalition of more than 50 organizations around Minnesota to start the ACT on Alzheimer’s project.

The growing statewide effort now involves 32 communities taking actions to help communities become more effective in helping those affected by dementia. The Roseville group conducted a survey of city residents and businesses earlier this year, then developed five areas of potential action and asked for advice on them from those at the October forum. The advice was to pursue a project in three of the areas, but hold off for now on two others: working to raise business awareness of Alzheimer’s and increasing volunteer opportunities. However, the group said both those areas actually might benefit from projects that are being planned.

The Roseville ACT on Alzheimer’s group received an $8,000 grant last spring through the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging (MAAA) to convene and assess the needs of the community. The money came from the Medica Foundation, Blue Plus HMO and the Greater Twin Cities United Way. By the end of this year, the group will choose between one and three projects for 2015 to help make the community more dementia friendly. In December it will seek an additional $10,000 grant from MAAA to help fund the work.

Warren Wolfe wrote about aging issues for 21 years at the Star Tribune. He retired last year. He and his wife, Sheryl Fairbanks, helped care for their four parents, two with dementia, and have been active in the Roseville ACT on Alzheimer’s project.

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