by Alisa Tirado Strayer, Social Work Practicum Student, UW Memory and Brain Wellness Center
As published in Dimensions Magazine - Fall 2018 Edition
The UW Memory & Brain Wellness Center is working with its partners in the Washington State Dementia Action Collaborative to implement a public awareness program called Dementia Friends. Dementia Friends is an anti-stigma campaign focusing on dementia and working to remove the stigma that people and their care partners face as they receive a diagnosis and symptoms progress. This program originated in Japan, moved to the UK, and about five years ago came to the U.S. Dementia Friends trains individuals on how to give an hour-long educational talk to their community about what is dementia and how to help their neighbors, friends, and family members with dementia. The people who attend those talks become Dementia Friends. Those Dementia Friends commit to a self-selected action that they believe will make their community more inclusive for people with dementia, whether through visiting a neighbor with dementia or through having more patience when talking to a family member with dementia.
As a first step to implement this program in Washington State, we are performing a program evaluation to make sure this program is useful to people here. While a few trainings will take place in King County, we plan to especially focus on the Yakima region. We would like to discover how effective the program is in more rural areas, and among populations disproportionately impacted by dementia such as people of color. This evaluation will take about a year, and if the program appears to be effective at reducing stigma around dementia, we are then hoping to spread the program more broadly across Washington State. Can’t wait that long? You can become a Dementia Friend now by going to https://dementiafriendsusa.org/ and taking a short online training!
Launching Dementia Friends is one strategy for accomplishing Recommendation 1.B.1 of the Washington State Plan to Address Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias, to be implemented by the Dementia Action Collaborative: “Promote positive images and messages of persons with dementia and their caregivers to combat stigma and increase societal acceptance and integration.” We believe that by countering stigma, we’ll enable people to freely seek a diagnosis and reach out for support. We’re excited to explore the impact of Dementia Friends in our state!
If you would like to learn more about Dementia Friends in Washington State, or if you are interested in becoming a Dementia Friends trainer, please contact Alisa Tirado Strayer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Dementia Action Collaborative
The Dementia Action Collaborative is a voluntary public-private partnership working to implement the Washington State Plan to Address Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias. Approved by the state legislature in 2016, the plan includes over 100 recommendations that will better prepare Washington State to serve the growing number of individuals living with dementia and their loved ones. Goals include raising awareness, ensuring early and accurate diagnosis and treatment, and improving supports and services for families.