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Help make Cloquet a ‘dementia-friendly’ community

The ACT on Alzheimer’s organization, a volunteer-driven group that works to make communities more sensitive and responsive to those with dementia, identifies the characteristics that make a community more “dementia-friendly.” Contributed Graphic

Alzheimers disease currently affects 88,000 Minnesotans age 65 and older.

Thousands more suffer with other forms of dementia.  

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Some 245,000 caregivers lend support to these folks statewide.

These numbers are staggering — and still growing — and it’s a nationwide trend that doesn’t show any sign of slowing.  And though research on diagnosing, treating and preventing dementia is proceeding full speed ahead, there is much that can be done at the local level to help people currently suffering from these life-altering conditions and the people who care for them.

Thanks to a group calling themselves the “Aging Well in Cloquet Coalition,” Cloquet recently became one of 13 new action communities in the state of Minnesota who are working to prepare Minnesota for the growing number of people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. The initiative was jump-started through an “ACT on Alzheimer’s” grant to assist Cloquet in becoming a “dementia-friendly community.”

Just what is a “dementia-friendly” community? For one thing, it’s a community that offers independent living and quality of life support, so those with dementia as well as their caretakers are aware of and have access to community services and avenues of support. It’s a community that provides a welcoming and supportive spiritual environment, encourages dementia-aware and responsive client service, offers specialized memory loss services, stresses emergency preparedness and response, provides suitable transportation and public spaces and stresses early diagnosis and quality care support.

Though the Arrowhead Area on Aging does not have exact numbers for the city of Cloquet, based on its population and the criteria that ACT on Alzheimer’s uses, the estimated number of Cloquet residents age 65 and over with Alzheimer’s and related dementias is likely in the range of 282. For those over the age of 85, that number is estimated at 126.

Those kinds of numbers make a compelling argument for the latest initiative.

With that in mind, the “Aging Well” group has been meeting for the past year to support and promote successful aging in the community. According to Deborah Lindamood, program director for Volunteer Services of Carlton County, “The membership of the group has been fluid, at various times including business people, emergency responders, home- and community-based health care providers and others.”

Over the course of its meetings, the group established three overarching goals:  

  •  Improve referrals between providers to link people to available services;  
  •  Identify at-risk individuals and reach them before a crisis occurs; and
  •  Educate the public and providers on how to access services.

The crisis risk factors identified during that process include:

  •  Dealing with a dementia diagnosis;
  •  Caring for someone with dementia; and
  •  Living alone with dementia.

In order to better address those goals and risk factors, Lindamood explained, the group decided to apply for ACT on Alzheimer’s funding.

Now, working with the Arrowhead Area Agency on Aging, the group has become an action team aimed at helping the entire community become “dementia capable.”  The team includes members from skilled nursing facilities, community-based providers, the Fond du Lac Reservation, local government, health care, hospice care, the faith community, and business, as well as one person living with dementia and her caregiver.   

The team recruited Lindamood as its community coordinator and is now planning a community kick-off event on Sept. 24 from noon to 1:30 p.m. at Community Memorial Hospital in Cloquet. At that time, the public is invited to come and learn more about ACT on Alzheimer’s and what Cloquet can do to take action to support its residents who are touched by this disease. A pizza lunch will be served. An RSVP is requested by Sept. 19 by contacting Lindamood at 218-879-9238.

“Word about this new effort is going around and we’re getting local inquiries, expressing interest in learning how Cloquet will benefit from this work,” related Lindamood.  

She added that the city can apply for additional grant support after various action items have been identified, such as finding ways to assist emergency responders in training personnel to deal with people having dementia, which she said can be significantly different from responding to someone who is hurt or injured in an accident, crime or other incident.

“This is really good news for Cloquet and the very forward-thinking of the group who has been working on this project,” summed up Lindamood. “As awareness grows, action to support people living with the disease can help our neighborhoods, families, and friends live life to the fullest.”

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