Building Dementia Friends in Illinois is of significant importance to the families and persons living with or at risk for dementia. Based on the 2017 Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures report, it is estimated that 220,000 people in Illinois have dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease and by 2025 the number will increase by 18% to 260,000 people. If all the people with dementia lived in a single Illinois city, it would be the second largest after Chicago. When we take into account that each person with dementia has multiple informal caregivers, another 588,000 persons living in Illinois are impacted by dementia.
Of course, all the people with dementia and their family do not live in a single community; they are living in every community in Illinois. Every one of these individuals has to navigate through their communities to support the well-being of a person living with or at risk for dementia. If they do not feel supported by their neighbors, they start becoming isolated. Isolation leads to worsening well-being along with poor physical and mental health.
Build a network
The key to building the Dementia Friends Illinois network is to engage as many community members as possible in Illinois to recognize how they can take simple steps to support persons living with or at risk for dementia and their families.
A Dementia Friend or Dementia Friends Champion is someone who has a better understanding of dementia; will know how to act more empathetically towards people with dementia in their communities and workplaces; and has committed to taking a practical action to help people with dementia, contributing to a dementia friendly community.
From telling friends about the Dementia Friends program to visiting someone you know living with dementia, every action counts.
An interested community member can join the Dementia Friends movement directly by viewing a series of online videos at Dementia Friends USA. A community member watches an overview video that provides information about dementia, how to recognize the signs of dementia and simple actions to personally contribute to making his/her community dementia friendly.
Once an interested community member has watched the overview video in its entirety, he/she will be prompted to select one of seven sector specific video shorts. In order to complete the Dementia Friends session, he/she needs to watch at least 3 video shorts that ideally are the sectors most relevant to his/her role in the community. Once the overview and 3 video shorts are viewed, the interested community member will be able to register as a Dementia Friend.
How the Dementia Friends USA program works is described in the flow diagram shown below. Each state has a lead agency to house and develop Master Trainers. In Illinois, the Master Trainers are part of the Illinois Cognitive Resources Network. The Master Trainers then train Dementia Friend Champions. Dementia Friend Champions then host information sessions with community members interested in becoming Dementia Friends. Dementia Friends learn five key messages about dementia and choose actions to support persons living with dementia and their families to be included in community life.