Dementia Friends is a public awareness anti-stigma program that 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.
In fall of 2022, the UW Memory and Brain Wellness Center launched Dementia Friends Washington at the Memory Hub, along with a website and social media. To date, Dementia Friends Washington has held two information sessions with 10 more planned.
“We are excited about the continued connections and opportunities to increase engagement and awareness about dementia through the Dementia Friends program in Washington State,” says Emily Meeks, program manager for Dementia Friends Washington. “As we share the model with more organizations, we are inspired by the interest and creativity that are taking off to help make communities more dementia friendly.”
Meeks works to partner with regional organizations to help them lead the roll out of Dementia Friends in their counties, expand awareness of the program, and be able to recruit and coordinate volunteers.The Dementia Friends Washington team recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Southeast Aging and Long-Term Care, setting in motion the plan to expand Dementia Friends into eight new counties in Washington State—achieving their goal for 2023!
Hot Off the Presses!
Hot off the presses comes a research study published in the journal Dementia on the impact of the very first pilot of Dementia Friends in Washington State! Back in 2018-2019, then UW MBWC social work student Alisa Tirado-Rafferty worked with our partners in the Washington State Dementia Action Collaborative to pilot Dementia Friends. Tirado-Rafferty, lead author of the new paper, now has her MSW and MPH from the UW Department of Health Systems and Population Health and works as the Memory Loss Program Coordinator at the Greenwood Senior Center in Seattle, WA.
In the study, the team aimed to assess whether the Dementia Friends pilot in Washington improved attitudes towards people living with dementia. They interviewed 15 people who organized Dementia Friends sessions.
The authors report that "Dementia Friends sessions were effective in improving participant attitudes towards people living with dementia and inspiring ongoing action towards building dementia-friendly communities. Champions found deep meaning in their role, but would benefit from increased support to make the volunteer role more sustainable. Our findings can inform efforts to successfully deliver Dementia Friends in other locations." Learn more about Dementia Friends Washington at www.dementiafriendswa.uw.edu.
What is a Dementia-Friendly Community?