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By Tori Chestnutt

The Bladen County Dementia Awareness series kicked off with a Dementia Friendly event at Bladen Community College. The  opening meeting raised awareness and the importance of education about Dementia in our community.

The event’s speakers Peggy Best, Scott Herrick and Thomas Ireland gave informative discussions on the disease itself, personal experiences, and education to engage the community. It is significant that people of the community are proactive in their efforts to create a dementia friendly environment.

Speaker Herrick discussed the importance of education to enhance the care and support of victims of these diseases around the community. He went on to discuss and presented videos that conveyed the steps needing to be taken in the community— the steps being: convene, engage, analyze, and act.

Herrick also illustrated that there is a great stigma with dementia and Alzheimer’s, which reflects their community involvements such as attending dinners or going to church. It is our job as a community to engage in awareness of these vulnerable individuals with the support they need. An example Herrick expressed was having a “worship friend” sit beside an individual with the disease to guide them through the worship time. Herrick closed his final remarks by saying that as a community we are “trying to make someone’s life more liveable”

Additionally, as people in the community and caregivers engage to support and help these individuals, they must keep in mind that changes in environment typically worsens the disease. Therefore, keep the environment the same to which they reside; be very verbal with them; and touch them from the front not the side due to their potential loss of vision; watch body language, and greet them warmly.

Speaker Best focused on identifying the alarming concern dementia is through statistics, as it is sixth leading cause of death, fifth leading cause of death in North Carolina, and 11 people in Bladen County died of dementia and with Alzheimer’s disease. The statistics gave insight to the fact that these individuals need support. There are many needs that were presented within the discussion of this population. Some include assistance, safety, autonomy, and emotional support. Best added that throughout the Bladen County community everyone can stop the stigma and stereotypes about dementia through education: “the more people know, the more informed they will be”.

Caregivers are also affected by the disease. Herrick explained the “stress of being a caregiver can kill you.” Speaker Ireland discussed his personal experience with dementia and how it has affected him as a caregiver. His speech gave emphasis to the idea that dementia is a real occurrence that does not only affect the individual but the individuals around them as well.

If you or someone you know is struggling with Alzheimer’s or Dementia, there are support services that can help. You can call the 24/7 help line at 800-272-3900, or visit www.alz.org for help.

Check out the upcoming Dementia Awareness Series of events here.

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