Movement to make Anoka dementia-friendly community

Communities across Minnesota have been stepping up to offer education and awareness to its business owners to become more friendly to people living with dementia, and their caregivers.

ACT on Alzheimer’s Anoka Action Team includes Tom Berard, Linda Tally, Jake Fuller, Jill Agyekum, Chanda Knoof and Steve Helseth.
ACT on Alzheimer’s Anoka Action Team includes Tom Berard, Linda Tally, Jake Fuller, Jill Agyekum, Chanda Knoof and Steve Helseth.Photo submitted

There is a local group hoping Anoka will be next to join them under the umbrella of ACT on Alzheimer’s, a volunteer-driven collaboration to create supportive environments for those touched by the disease.

This Anoka Action Team is being built with representatives from sectors citywide including medical, financial, city and county government, religious groups and businesses, as well as people living with Alzheimer’s, according to the ACT on Alzheimer’s website.

Chana Knoof, director of sales and marketing with Walker Methodist in Anoka, sees the need for more awareness in many communities – Anoka included.

“Working around it every day you see the challenges that are there,” Knoof said. Personally, her own father is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

And the numbers keep growing. It’s currently estimated 89,000 Minnesotans over the age of 65 are living with Alzheimer’s disease, according to ACT on Alzheimer’s.

According to Knoof, the goals of the local effort include identifying and investing in promising approaches, raising awareness and reducing stigma, equipping communities to be more dementia-friendly, sustaining caregivers, increasing detection and improving care.

A kickoff event will be held on Sept. 22.

Here people can learn about what a dementia-friendly community is, how dementia affects the community and how people can help.

There are currently more than 30 communities across the state working to be more dementia-friendly as action communities under the ACT on Alzheimer’s banner.

The next step for Anoka will be a community assessment to learn what the needs are for local residents, businesses, those living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.

“We want people to know that other people are going through the same thing and find a way to connect caregivers,” Knoof said.

The same goes for those living with the disease.

“They don’t have to be alone – they are not the only ones going through these tough times and changes,” Knoof said.

Awareness and a call for change can come in many ways.

Knoof said there is a need for more family bathrooms in public places, so caregivers are more easily able to help.

It could mean a card family-members could hand out in a restaurant or shop when their family member with dementia acts out, so other patrons understand.

There is a financial cost, not just for caring for and keeping Alzheimer’s patients safe, but also for those who look after them.

Caregivers often suffer from health problems as a result of stress and exhaustion.

Part of being an ACT community will be the ability to connect people with resources like adult daycare facilities or respite care, Knoof said.

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