Statewide Workshop Explores Dementia Friendly Communities
On February 17, Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) staff members Anneliese Perry, MS, NHA, CECM and Stacie Bonenberger, MOT, OTR/L hosted a virtual statewide workshop called Dementia Friendly: Bringing a Community Together. Perry and Bonenberger are both project managers of aging initiatives at JHF and statewide coordinators of Dementia Friends Pennsylvania. They were joined by Pennsylvania's Department of Aging Secretary, Robert Torres, JD, and over 50 participants from across the Commonwealth.
Secretary Torres kicked off the session by welcoming the group and by acknowledging the importance of this work. He said, "Stacie and Anneliese have become valuable partners for our department in helping to raise awareness and understanding related to dementia, and I wanted to thank them, Dementia Friends Pennsylvania, and the Jewish Healthcare Foundation for everything they have done and will continue to do to support this cause… If there is one thing I have learned from Dementia Friends, it is that every one of us has the power to create change in our communities, one kind gesture at a time."
Perry introduced the concept of "dementia friendly," explaining the origins of the movement and how communities from around the world have become informed, safe, and respectful of individuals living with dementia. The group worked collectively to identify what an ideal dementia-friendly community might look like and then explored current examples abroad, nationally, and locally here in Pennsylvania.
During the second half of the workshop, Bonenberger focused on actionable steps communities can take to begin their Dementia Friendly Community journey. Working through a Community Action Form, participants began thinking about their communities' strengths. They considered potential key partners, stakeholders, and "movers and shakers" who could form an action team, and how they would ensure the active role of persons living with dementia, their families, and care partners. Bonenberger explored the four phases of the Dementia Friendly America toolkit and provided examples of every phase.
Dementia Friendly America, a national network launched in 2015, helps communities, organizations, and individuals work to ensure that communities across the country are equipped to support people living with dementia, their families and care partners. Currently there are eight Dementia Friendly Community Initiatives in Pennsylvania: Bucks County, Cumberland County, Greater Pittsburgh, Lancaster County, Lehigh Valley, Newtown, Susquehanna Valley and York/Adams Counties.