A dementia friendly community is informed, safe and respectful of individuals living with dementia, their families and caregivers and provides supportive options that foster quality of life.
On April 27, the Bergen County Division of Senior Services and Act Now Foundation launched the Bergen County Dementia Friendly Initiative with a kick off event. The first step in the Initiative was to create an Action Team that meets regularly and drives efforts toward becoming a dementia friendly community. By the time of the event, the team had grown to over 30 members from various communities, including hospitals, legal and financial services, caregivers, community services, community leaders, and more.
The kick off event featured many speakers, including the leaders of the Initiative, Kerry Sherer, Experience Deputy Director of Bergen County Division of Senior Services, and Act Now Foundation's President & Co-Founder Kristine Allen, whose families have been directly affected by the disease. In addition, County Commissioners and Mayors urged attendees to support the Initiative, and Dr. Manisha Parulekar, Division Chief for Geriatrics at Hackensack University Medical Center, spoke about the importance of early detection.
The Program Director for Dementia Friendly America, Maria Ek, welcomes Bergen County to be part of the movement.
Later, Dottie Ogden, a caregiver for her late husband, shared her experience. Her words moved the crowd as she spoke about how impatient staff in doctor's offices, restaurant servers, friends, family, and neighbors had been at times, and how disease awareness could go a long way. She also requested safe environments for people affected by the disease to socialize, and volunteer programs for home assistance. Linda Lembo, caregiver and client of Act Now Foundation, spoke about how unprepared she had felt caring for her late husband despite being a former nurse, and about the importance of making the citizenry aware of the community services available to them.
Our last speaker, whose name we will not divulge, is another Act Now Foundation client diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment. Despite being aware of his cognitive decline, he's hopeful for the future and proactively taking steps to slow down the disease. In fact, he's still operating his business and taking piano lessons on the side to exercise his brain. He was incredibly humble and kind as he dismissed the difficulties he's facing and credited his wife for being such a devoted companion.
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