The Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA) and Jewish Family and Children’s Service (JF&CS) are collaborating with Mass Council on Aging (MCOA), the Alzheimer’s Association, UMass Medical School and other partners on the Dementia Friendly Massachusetts Initiative, which strives to make communities supportive and inclusive of individuals living with dementia and their families.
More than 120,000 Massachusetts residents are living with dementia, a disorder that can be caused by Alzheimer’s disease or other conditions and includes the symptoms of memory loss and difficulty planning and communicating. Stigma and lack of public awareness about dementia can lead to isolation among families and their loved ones living with dementia.
The Office of Program Development within UMass Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine division is providing program development support for the initiative, launched at a summit this spring with funding from the Tufts Health Plan Foundation. The Office of Program Development assists with setting strategy and direction, facilitating an advisory group, and sharing information.
“We are supporting the creation and expansion of dementia friendly communities and programs across the state of Massachusetts,” said Pamela MacLeod, a senior program development associate in the Office of Program Development and the Executive Office of Elder Affairs. “We want to make sure Massachusetts is a place where people with dementia can be safe and respected while participating in their communities in a way that is meaningful to them.”
The Initiative serves as a convener, connecting individuals, first responders, businesses, community groups, and organizations to resources, tools and technical assistance. In addition to EOEA and JF&CS, its management committee includes the Alzheimer’s Association Massachusetts/New Hampshire Chapter, LeadingAge Massachusetts, Massachusetts Association of Councils on Aging and the Multicultural Coalition on Aging. More than 40 organizations sit on the advisory group.
EOEA has several programs that focus on dementia, including a current project supported by UMass Medical School’s Office of Program Development to create a dementia capable system of community-based services and supports in Massachusetts.
Additionally, in 2014, EOEA and several elder services agencies and municipal police departments launched a program with support from the same UMass Medical School office to register individuals with dementia and at risk wandering with police departments, making critical information available to law enforcement to immediately aide searching should an incident occur.
Everyone has a role to play in the Dementia Friendly Massachusetts Initiative. Free materials are available for use on the Dementia Friendly America website, including a community toolkit and sector-specific informational guides. Additionally, anyone can join the Dementia Friendly Massachusetts Initiative’s mailing list to receive updates and resources.