"If there's one thing worse than Alzheimer's, it's ignorance of the disease." -- Marty Schreiber
Dementia Friendly—You Betcha!
I was recently in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, for a presentation of My Two Elaines at the Dementia Friendly Community Initiative (DFCI) of Walworth County. While there, I learned of their Cycling Without Age program, which focuses on bringing the joy of fresh air and the mobility of cycling to older generations and disabled individuals via a trishaw—a three-wheel, pedal-assist cargo bike.
Cycling Without Age started in 2012 in Denmark. As of earlier this year, there were 2,200 locations around the world with more than 3,000 trishaws. 24 U.S. states have programs, with Wisconsin alone having 14 chapters—and now Elkhorn is joining them.
Yes, Elkhorn really wears their dementia- and Alzheimer’s-friendliness on their sleeve—literally. While there, I spotted a t-shirt full of good advice. It said:
Agree – Don’t argue
Divert – Don’t reason
Distract – Don’t shame
Reassure – Don’t lecture
Reminisce – Don’t say “Remember”
Repeat – Don’t say “I told you so”
From their wise t-shirts to their cycling program, I was thoroughly impressed with Elkhorn’s overall effort to create a dementia-friendly community. Rather than waiting for the storm to pass, they are learning to dance in the rain. They know that if Alzheimer’s is bad, ignorance of the disease is worse.
The DFCI in Elkhorn is led by husband-wife team Eric and Bernadette Russow. The group provides free training to local organizations on recognizing signs of dementia, effectively communicating with and assisting individuals with dementia, and locating dementia resources. The DFCI is building communities with safe, respectful, understanding, and supportive environments for those with dementia, as well as their caregivers.
With the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual Longest Day coming up on June 20th, there’s no better time to get involved in your own community in support of dementia care and resources. The Longest Day is a day of action where people from across the world will fight the darkness of Alzheimer’s through a fundraising activity of their choice. For ideas on how to turn your favorite activity into a fundraiser to fight Alzheimer’s, visit alz.org/thelongestday.
For questions or more information about Alzheimer’s and services or programs, visit alz.org or call the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900.
Marty is the primary caregiver for his wife Elaine, for whom his book is named. He compassionately promotes the value of learning about Alzheimer's and caregiving via personal appearances and serving as a media source. You'll enjoy his honesty and even his humor.