Imagine the feeling of confusion upon hearing the diagnosis of dementia, for either yourself or a loved one. What’s the next stage going to be? Will I have the resources to handle it? Who can help me?

We are fortunate to live in a place that cares about those with dementia and their informal caregivers thanks to a local effort to create a dementia-friendly community. In the Stillwater area, the ACT on Alzheimer’s Team, represented by members of the community, government entities, health care providers, businesses and nonprofits, are working collaboratively to create supportive environments for everyone touched by Alzheimer’s disease.

ACT on Alzheimer’s began with legislation in 2009 that charged the Minnesota Board on Aging with recommending policies and programs to prepare Minnesota for a mounting Alzheimer’s crisis. Statewide, one in nine people age 65 plus has Alzheimer’s disease and the number is growing.

Locally, it is estimated that more than 1,000 of our neighbors live with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. After surveying the needs in the community, one of the Stillwater Area ACT team’s first projects was to identify experts who could assist people and their loved ones upon learning about their diagnosis.

Dementia Resource Navigators, designated by the Stillwater Area ACT team, are available to help people work through complex issues, to make better decisions, and to feel less alone and stressed as they face the many challenges of the disease. Dementia Resource Navigators can help with:

  • understanding a memory loss diagnosis and the disease process
  • navigating family situations
  • handling daily living matters and safety concerns
  • finding community resources and services like transportation, home-delivered meals, and in-home care services
  • finding support groups
  • connecting socially
  • locating expertise with financial and legal matters
  • planning end-of-life preferences and completing a Health Care Directive

If you want to learn more about these services and the initiatives underway for creating a more informed, safe, and respectful community for people living with dementia, the Stillwater Area ACT team will have a booth at the Night to Unite event on Tuesday, August 2nd, from 5:00 – 9:00 pm at Washington Square Park.  They will also be present at Lakeside Park in Bayport and will have volunteers visiting neighborhood gatherings throughout the area during the evening.  Watch for the folks wearing “We are dementia friendly” t-shirts. Their goal is to offer information about help that’s available and ways to get involved in making the Stillwater area a welcoming and supportive community for people experiencing dementia. After all, it may be in our own best interest.

By Sally Anderson