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Dementia Week hopes to educate, raise awareness: Number of Americans suffering from the disease could double by 2050

BEMIDJI -- A series of events is scheduled next week to help make the Bemidji area a more “dementia friendly community.”

Dementia Week organizers have put together a variety of workshops, opportunities to socialize, and a fundraising walk to raise awareness and help attendees learn more about the condition.

Carol Priest, who is coordinating Dementia Week events, said many consider the neurological condition to be a normal part of aging.

“It’s not. It’s a disease,” she said. Dementia is an umbrella term that covers many diseases, Priest said, the most common of which is Alzheimer’s.

The risk for dementia increases with age, and the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke’s website -- ninds.nih.gov -- claims that the number of Americans suffering from it could double by 2050.

“We need to know more about this illness so we can support people with dementia so their quality of life is better,” Priest explained.

Many of the week’s events, then, are designed to help friends, family, and caregivers live or work with dementia patients, or recognize signs of the disease. One seminar explores dementia and driving -- “is it still safe for my loved one with dementia to be driving, and how do I tell them?” -- and another helps caregivers communicate with dementia patients, for whom speaking, thinking, and reasoning can become an increasingly-difficult challenge.

One prominent event is a Wednesday afternoon “Memory Cafe” for people with dementia -- who often become isolated by their condition -- and their caregivers to socialize, listen to music, and so on without fear of judgement.

Another is a workshop addressing the “unique concerns” of LGBT dementia patients, who might not know their caregivers’ attitudes or beliefs, Priest said.

“It’s a very frightening thing for a lot of people,” she explained.

The week is capped off by a Saturday morning Walk to End Alzheimer’s on the BSU campus. The walk will raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association, and organizers have already brought in $5,300 of their $15,000 goal.

“It really is a community effort,” Priest said of the week.

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Dementia Awareness week starts Sunday. All events are free and, unless otherwise noted, will be held at Adult Day Services, 620 Carr Lake Road SE.

Registration is requested, but not required. To register, call (218) 333-8265 or email info@northwoodscaregivers.org.

The schedule:

2-4 p.m. Sunday: “Living Well with Dementia.” A celebration of age with music, movement, conversation and refreshments.

6-8 p.m. Monday: “The Basics and Know the 10 Signs.” Two one-hour workshops from the Alzheimer’s Association that will teach about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, how to recognize them and what to do next.

6-8 p.m. Tuesday: “Embracing the Journey of Ongoing Loss.” A program for family caregivers and friends to help to live with the daily losses of dementia, find emotional and spiritual support and grow from the journey.

2-4 p.m. Wednesday: “Memory Cafe” at the Bemidji Eagles Club, 1270 Neilson Ave SE. A program for people with Alzheimer’s or another dementia and their caregivers.

6-8 p.m. Sept. 22: “Welcoming LGBT Older Adults.” Attendees will learn about the unique concerns and needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender elders with dementia and their caregivers.

9-11 a.m. Sept. 23: “The Driving Dilemma” in the education room at Sanford Hospital, 1300 Anne St. N.W., Bemidji. The program will focus on one of the toughest questions for families: “Is it still safe for my loved one with dementia to be driving, and how do I tell them?”

2-4 p.m. Sept. 23: “Understanding Behavior” at Windsong Theater Room, 1010 Anne St. N.W., Bemidji. The program is for professionals and caregivers to understand how changes in the brain contribute to different behaviors and communication limitations.

6-8 p.m. Sept. 23: “Learning the Language.” Attendees will learn how to communicate more effectively with people with dementia using verbal and nonverbal communication.

9 a.m. to noon, Sept. 24: “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” at Bemidji State University’s Gillett Recreation Center, 1801 17th St. N.E., Bemidji. More information: alz.org/walk or (800) 272-3900.

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education and health for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He is a Minneapolis native and a 2009 graduate of St. John's University. Before moving to Bemidji, Bowen covered education, local politics, crime, and everything in between for the Perham Focus in Perham, Minnesota, and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis.

(218) 333-9798
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