A Wilson Times Co. publication · Serving Southern Nash County Since 1947

Building a dementia-friendly community

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Last Wednesday I had the privilege of attending a luncheon of the Spring Hope Seniors group at the Spring Hope Community building. I was invited to attend because there was a presenter coming who we needed to video so that others who could not attend could get the information. The presentation was on caring for someone with dementia.

Spring Hope Police Chief Anthony Puckett and his guest Marla Matthews, a registered nurse and care transitions coordinator with Amedisys Home Health in Franklinton, shed light on a subject that most folks have had to deal with, but know very little about.

When I think of dementia, I think of someone whose mind is deteriorating to the point where they are not able to care for themselves. I found out that was not the case at all.

Listening to the pair explain that any form of cognitive degeneration is a form of dementia was an eye-opener for me, and I thought I knew what dementia was having watched family members succumb to it in their later years and the toll it took on their caregivers.

I learned that we see people with varying degrees of dementia every day, people who are seemingly leading completely normal lives but have had a head injury that keeps them from remembering things that used to be easy to recall, or no longer being able to concentrate for the same period of time or no longer able to multi-task as easily as before. I learned that any number of conditions such as Parkinson’s, cancer, Alzheimer’s or any other condition that affects the mind is considered a form of dementia.

While someone who has had a head injury and simply has a hard time concentrating may not need any assistance, there are those who do, and they don’t just need assistance from their caregiver — they need assistance from us all. Those who have gone deep into the reaches of dementia are almost like dealing with a child, and as the saying goes — it takes a village.

While I cannot get into all the information that was given, I will say that I walked away with a new perspective on the ailment, one that I hope helps me to cope better with my own medical challenges as well as better understand how to help a loved one or neighbor deal with theirs.

The greatest takeaway that day was the fact that we should not try to lock these folks away or encourage their caregivers to get them to stay home. They are part of our community and they should be treated as such until such time as they are called home through death.

How we keep them a part of the community requires us as residents, business owners and local authorities to make our community a dementia-friendly community, to be able to recognize the signs and be able to help those who are suffering to refocus, or simply find their way without challenging them or telling them they are wrong — because their reality can be different from ours.

Whether you are caring for someone with dementia or know someone with dementia, or simply want to be part of a dementia-friendly community, I encourage you to visit www.southernnashnews.com and watch the raw video of Wednesday’s presentation — it is a real eye-opener.

Mark Cone is owner and operator of SouthernNashNews.com.