• October 22, 2019

Resident urges Northfield to become Dementia Friendly Community - Ocean City Sentinel: News

Resident urges Northfield to become Dementia Friendly Community

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Posted: Wednesday, October 9, 2019 10:40 am

NORTHFIELD — Carolyn Peterson talked to City Council about becoming a Dementia Friendly Community during a meeting Tuesday, Sept. 24. 

Peterson, of Northfield, discussed Dementia Friendly New Jersey, which she said is part of Dementia Friendly America. She said the national organization started in 2015 and is a network of communities, organizations and individuals “to make sure that people with dementia, their caregivers and families are respected and can better live and work in the community.”

According to the Dementia Friendly America website, law enforcement and first responders can be involved by recognizing signs of dementia and responding accordingly; local governments can plan and implement housing, transportation, public spaces and emergency response; faith communities can have specialized programs and service accommodations for those with dementia; and community members can learn how to interact sensitively and create networks of support. 

A Dementia Friendly New Jersey task force started in January 2019 and was comprised of 25 people across sectors, including bankers, police departments, health care, lawyers and others. 

“We basically get a broad spectrum of people who would be affected by this disease,” she said. 

They became a part of Dementia Friendly America in April, Peterson said.

The Atlantic County Board of Chosen Freeholders and Somers Point City Council supported them, according to Peterson. 

“By supporting us, we’re launching into what’s basically an education and awareness campaign,” she said. 

“We’re going into businesses, training their employees on signs and symptoms and communications and behaviors. It just fosters a community that is more welcoming to people,” she said. 

“Unfortunately, we’re seeing more and more younger onset, which is under age 65, and, unfortunately, a common thing that we’ll hear is maybe they’ll go to a restaurant and it’s difficult for both people because their caregiver is embarrassed, maybe their loved one doesn’t have a filter anymore, maybe they eat with their fingers, maybe they just need a quieter place in the restaurant to sit so there aren’t as many distractions,” she said. 

According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, in 2015, there were an estimated 46.8 million people living with dementia worldwide. That number was expected to increase to nearly 50 million in 2017. 

Dementia is a term for the impaired ability to remember, think and make decisions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative dementias. Signs of dementia include problems with memory, attention, communication, reasoning, judgment and problem solving, as well as problems with visual perception. 

The CDC stated that in 2017, 261,914 deaths were attributed to dementia as an underlying cause. 

According to Peterson, there are about 30,000 people in Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties suffering from some kind of cognitive impairment. 

“Most people don’t know that for someone with a cognitive impairment, it takes them 90 seconds to process one command,” she said. “We live in a fast-paced society. We talk very fast, so it’s a matter of slowing down.”

“We’re starting in Atlantic and Cape May counties, getting the cities involved and the community, going out to train businesses, and we’re hoping to go out into the rest of New Jersey,” she said. 

Peterson said it does not cost the businesses anything and that the group’s members go in and train employees for about a half-hour. Businesses that participate will receive a sticker to display so that those who patronize the business will know the employees were trained. 

Peterson said they were asking for City Council’s support. 

Mayor Erland Chau and several members of council spoke in support of the program. 

City Council planned to have a resolution supporting the organization on the agenda for an upcoming meeting.

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