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Becoming Dementia Aware

When you come to our office, you will now see a purple angel sticker on our front door. This means our employees have been trained to warmly welcome and offer extra help to visitors experiencing memory loss, confusion or other symptoms associated with dementia. This week, 16 Community Foundation employees participated in the the Purple Angel Dementia Awareness Program, one of seven components of the Fox Valley Memory Project.

Program coordinator Lynn Ann Clausing Rusch explained that different types of dementia have different symptoms, and people will experience them at differing times. “When you have met one person with dementia, you have met one person with dementia,” she said. We’re part of an aging population in Wisconsin, and people are living longer. Lynn Ann said by age 72, one in three people experiences cognitive decline, and at age 85, 40% of people will have some form of dementia.

Helpful communication tips and techniques were shared, including:

  • Approach the person from the front (due to loss of peripheral vision) at at eye level if possible.
  • Smile warmly. A person may not understand your words, but can read your emotions and interpret the message on your face.
  • Don’t argue or contradict. This is their reality. Find a way to shift the conversation.
  • Ask simple choice questions versus open-ended questions.
  • Limit choices and pause between options allowing time to process.

The Community Foundation’s name will be added to a growing list of Fox Valley organizations, businesses and public places that have educated their employees about the challenges and stigma for people with dementia.

Anyone wishing to participate in the free Purple Angel Dementia Awareness Program can contact FVMP project coordinator Lynn Ann Clausing Rusch at [email protected] or 920-225-1711.

During the past six years, the Community Foundation and its donor funds have awarded significant grant dollars to the FVMP to help it offer important resources and programs, like the Purple Angel training, to create a dementia-friendly community. The Community Foundation also manages two charitable funds for the FVMP – one to provide a way for people to give to support its current operational needs, and one for long-term support.

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