AFS Blog

American Society on Aging: Florida's Dementia Care and Cure Initiative

Posted on April 02, 2018 | by Kathy Black
American Society on Aging: Florida's Dementia Care and Cure Initiative

Age-Friendly Sarasota (AFS) partnered with the Florida Department of Elder Affairs (FDOEA) to discuss our collaboration with the Dementia Care and Cure Initiative (DCCI) at the American Society on Aging in San Francisco on March 29, 2018. There were attendees from several states including North Dakota, New York, Washington, and Hawaii – who expressed interest in our collaborative state model. There were also several attendees from Florida from the financial, healthcare, and senior service sectors, and their participation provided both formative feedback to our programs as well as connections for advisory input from these core sectors. Once again, our sharing has led to greater connecting, learning, evolving, and strengthening at the state and community level.

There was much to share about our Age and Dementia-Friendly programs. Though distinct, the approaches are complementary as both focus on helping people remain independent in the community, place people living in the community as the central focus, emphasize the social and physical environment, and engage a broad set of stakeholders. However, dementia-friendly communities also differ by using a “disease-lens,” focus on raising awareness about dementia and combatting stigma associated with the disease, and engaging caregivers as core partners. Also, both age- and dementia-friendly communities operate within a model or framework; age-friendly communities require municipal initiation to begin while dementia-friendly efforts can operate whenever interested community members join to make a difference.

Dementia is an umbrella term that refers to conditions that cause impaired cognition and intellectual functioning affecting the ability to interact with one’s surroundings. Many conditions cause and mimic dementia, but Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common type. Currently, there are more than 50,000 people in our region that have AD. People can live with AD for twenty years or more, and the majority of people in the lengthiest stages of the disease reside in the community – with caregivers and others attending to their needs. But what happens when caregivers bring their loved ones to a restaurant, a bank, church, the library, parks, etc.? Depending on the degree of brain impairment, the person may have difficulty in the surroundings or interacting with others. Likewise, people working in a range of settings may be unaware how to recognize persons with dementia and how best to interact with people and their caregivers in respectful and productive ways.

The DCCI seeks to enhance the experience of Floridians living with dementia in our communities by educating the multiple sectors of shops and businesses in which we visit in everyday life AND by funneling people to helpful resources that enhance the ability to age in their communities. At the broader community level, the FDOEA manages a Communities for a Lifetime (CFAL) program which helps communities share and connect to resources across multiple areas of need. For example, nine Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) operate within the statewide network of services via Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) which function as a single, coordinated system for information and access to services for all Floridians seeking community and long-term care resources. Additionally, the FDOEA operates 16 Memory Disorder Clinics located across the state. The clinics provide comprehensive diagnostic and referral services for people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia.

As a result of the state networks and programs, providers across all sectors can be educated to recognize and respond to signs and symptoms of dementia to provide respective and inclusive interactions – and people with dementia and their loved ones can benefit from the specialized services that can assist in planning and better managing their lives. Improving the lives of individuals with dementia benefits our entire community – and that’s age-friendly!


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