ACT on Alzheimer’s project moving forward; organizers say education is key

Leaders of a project designed to raise dementia awareness in the Forest Lake community provided an update on their progress at an event held Jan. 29.
ACT on Alzheimer’s is a volunteer-driven, statewide collaboration preparing Minnesota for the impacts of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. The program launched in Forest Lake in 2013.
“We created a committee, created a survey and then provided that survey to business owners and others in Forest Lake,” ACT representative Jules Benson said. “We now have 47 surveys completed, and we have tallied all of the information. We are now ready to implement what has been learned.”
What Benson and her team determined from examining survey results was that the weakest link in the Forest Lake area is education in every aspect of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Benson said that the clear message was that many people do not have an understanding of the disease and don’t know what to do with someone who suffers from it.
“Many people have not educated themselves because they don’t have any experience in dealing with dementia patients directly and so they might not think it is necessary,” she said. “The truth, however, is that Alzheimer and dementia stats are staggering, and the numbers of those afflicted are growing by leaps and bounds.”
Benson said that the reality of the situation is that soon everyone will be dealing with someone who has Alzheimer’s. Those in the customer service industry, for example, will need to know how to accommodate the special needs of someone with dementia if Forest Lake ever wants to become truly dementia friendly.
“Many of these folks simply stay home because it is too difficult for them to deal with being out in public and trying to maneuver their way through the things they need or want to do,” Benson said. “To make Forest Lake more friendly to these people, we need to make it easier for caregivers to take them places. We need to be able to keep their world as big as we can for as long as we can.”
Benson and her team met Feb. 9 to discuss plans to implement programs to help educate not only those in the service industry, but also the community in general about ways to deal with those afflicted with Alzheimer’s. One main area of focus was specific training for emergency medical technicians, police and firefighters to address dealing with a dementia sufferer in a traumatic situation.
“If you want to be better, then you must educate yourself,” Benson said. “With the right kind of education, we can be better as a community, and the work we are doing with ACT on Alzheimer’s is meant to support that effort.”
For more information about the work of ACT on Alzheimer’s and how you can get involved, go to www.actonalz.org or contact Jules Benson at 651-703-1151 or [email protected]