Promoting a Dementia-Friendly

Marlborough, Massachusetts

Marlborough: City works to become 'dementia-friendly' community.

June 7, 2016 article in Metro West Daily News.

Click here to view MWDN website.

By Jeff Malachowski, Daliy News Staff

 

MARLBOROUGH - As the population of Massachusetts residents living with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia continues to grow, a group of volunteers is working to make the city a "dementia friendly" place.

 

Alongside Bay Path Elder Services, the volunteers are planning a series of initiatives to benefit seniors and others struggling with memory loss and offer support to family members and caretakers. Arthur Bergeron, a volunteer, said the group's initial task is helping community groups and businesses identify and assist those with dementia.

 

The group will circulate a survey to restaurants, banks, coffee shops, and other community settings in the coming weeks to get a handle on employees' knowledge of the signs of dementia. The program will later train employees on how to assist customers with memory and confusion issues, said Michelle Bodin-Hettinger, a volunteer.

They don't know how to deal with (customers with dementia)," Bodin-Hettinger, a community outreach director for Homewatch CareGivers. "A lot of people see signs of dementia and think the person is mentally ill or drunk. They have no idea what to do. They want to get away."

 

As part of the training, Bergeron and Bodin-Hettinger said employees of local businesses will learn to identify signs of those suffering from dementia and accommodate their needs, such as suggesting one or two food items at a restaurant instead of offering a menu filled with choices that could confuse them.

 

"A dementia-friendly community is a place where I can live until I die without being embarrassed no matter how bad my memory is," said Bergeron, an attorney who works . "This is becoming really huge."

 

Minnesota took the lead on the subject, as more than 35 communities in the state have been deemed dementia-friendly.

Officials from Marlborough, Hudson and Northborough, which are also involved in the initiative, recently traveled to Minnesota to get a first-hand look at the program.

 

The Marlborough volunteer group will host an informational meeting on the project next Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the senior center on New Street. Those interested in attending are asked to RSVP by calling 508-485-6492 by June 13.

 

Bodin-Hettinger and Bergeron hope the program can help those with dementia and their families feel comfortable.

 

"It's devastating," said Bodin-Hettinger. "You're watching a vibrant, functioning person's brain deteriorate before your eyes. It's devastating to see your parent or spouse changing rapidly."

 

For more information on the initiative visit www.baypath.org or www.actonalz.org.

 

Jeff Malachowski can be reached at 508-490-7466 or jmalachowski@wickedlocal.com.

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