Some people wonder what my husband, John, and I mean when we say that “we are all living with dementia.” We use this statement to indicate that nearly all persons in our community—regardless of age—know at least one individual who is experiencing the progressive memory loss and mental confusion that comes with Alzheimer’s disease or one of the other types of dementia.
Age is the primary risk factor for dementia. By 2030, one out of every 5 people in the U.S. will be age 65 or older. In some parts of Wisconsin, that percentage is already much higher. This means that greater numbers of people in the near future will be experiencing the symptoms of dementia.
There are no known cures for Alzheimer’s disease and the other dementias. Right now, researchers are pinning their hopes on identifying biological conditions that are precursors to dementia so that they can develop treatments for these conditions before symptoms appear. For most of us, however, there will be no pharmacologic cure.
Without a medical “fix” for the changes in the brain that increasing numbers of persons will experience, we need to figure out how our communities can provide programs and services to enable people to live well, regardless of their ability to remember, reason, make decisions, etc. We cannot rely solely on family members, who are already juggling multiple responsibilities of work and care for children, often at some distance from the person with dementia.
The Fox Valley Memory Project aims to create a dementia-friendly community by meeting the changing needs of people diagnosed with dementia along with their care partners and friends. Our memory cafés, resource center, assessment center, outreach to employers of persons experiencing dementia, educational programs and trainings in creative engagement activities for long-term care residents are examples of our efforts to overcome the stigma and isolation experienced by many people living with dementia.
Come and learn more about the Fox Valley Memory Project on Nov. 19, 7-8 p.m. at a free program at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel in downtown Appleton sponsored by the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region. You’ll hear how a group of professionals, volunteers and persons diagnosed with dementia are working together to create a community in which we can say “we are all living well with dementia.”
Susan H. McFadden, Ph.D., is Professor Emerita, Department of Psychology, at the
University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. She and her husband, John T. McFadden, are the authors of “Aging Together: Dementia, Friendship & Flourishing Communities.”