By Rachel King
Opelika has taken the first step in becoming a dementia-friendly community through the Lee Russel Council of Governments (LRCOG).
Earlier this month, LRCOG was awarded a grant that will fund community projects aimed at raising awareness for those living with cognitive diseases.
Leisa Askew, Alabama Cares Coordinator, said that the most important thing is making sure that caregivers as well as those with cognitive dysfunctions do not become closed off and are able to remain a part of the community.
“This is a unique opportunity to be able to educate the baristas at the coffee shops, the wait staff at restaurants, even the cashier at a clothing store on how to understand and relate to customers who have dementia,” Askew said.
A portion of the grant will fund memory screenings which are confidential brain “check-ups” that ask a series of questions, giving the participant a score on how well they retain information.
To further understanding of how these diseases work funds will also go towards “Second Wind Dreams” a virtual dementia tour (VDT).
The tour places participants in the shoes of someone with dementia, allowing them to face similar physical and mental challenges that those with cognitive diseases go through daily.
“Sometimes as a caregiver to someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia you try to rationalize an irrational situation,” Askew said. “The caregiver may be trying to protect the person, but by doing that it creates an erupting situation. The virtual tour really puts you in the shoes of someone with one of these diseases and gives you a new perspective.”
Remaining funds will help create community outreaches where businesses will have the opportunity to be educated on how to become dementia friendly.
Anyone wanting a memory screening or to go on a virtual tour can call Askew at (334) 528-9215.
“We are all on a journey toward the same thing, we all want safety, dignity and quality of life,” Askew said. “The chapters to each of our stories are different but both care givers and those living with dementia can still be productive members of society and that is what this grant is going to help us ensure.”