AARP Enlisted To Help Wisconsin Create ‘Dementia-Friendly Communities’

State Officials Say 8 Such Communities Already Exist In Wisconsin

Watertown, which the director of the state AARP says is a community striving to become more dementia-friendly. Photo: Public Domain.

The interest group AARP has long worked to make communities suitable for older adults; now, it’s being enlisted to help the state of Wisconsin create what are being called “dementia-friendly communities.”

“Dementia-friendly community” is not an official designation. Rather, it recognizes things communities do to make life easier for those with the disease and those who care for them.

State AARP Director Sam Wilson said some communities, like Watertown in Jefferson County, are doing things like reaching out to the business community where older adults may shop or eat.

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“If they have someone in their store who may develop some confusion or not understand where they are or if they don’t have a caregiver nearby, (communities are addressing) how those business owners might be able to recognize the needs of that individual,” said Wilson.

Of those with dementia, 80 percent live in the community. But dementia is also the primary factor in moving to a nursing home, according to Tom Lutzow. He’s president of iCare, which provides services for the state program known as Family Care.

“(Dementia) is one of the big reasons nursing homes become necessary,” Lutzow said. “And we don’t have enough money in this country to build the number of nursing homes necessary to take care of this group. So we have to make the community dementia-capable.”

State officials say that so far, eight communities are on track to be considered dementia-friendly.