No one walking the dementia journey has to walk alone.

Read what the Coloradoan newspaper reported about the first Dementia-Friendly business training in Northern Colorado

Effort makes a confusing situation less confusing

Completion of additional staff training has made the Lincoln Center the first “dementia-friendly” business in Northern Colorado, with the Fort Collins Senior Center a close second to claim the designation.

The initiative, which has a goal of helping 30 businesses become dementia-friendly by the end of 2016, is spearheaded by a woman whose passion for the cause began after her father described his dementia symptoms, saying he felt he was “living in a fog.”

“When he said that, I thought OK, I’m going to become an expert on dementia care, and I’m going to make sure he finishes well,” said Cyndy Luzinski, a dementia practitioner and former Community Case Management nurse at Poudre Valley Hospital.

The dementia-friendly initiative began in Wisconsin and Minnesota after coming over from the United Kingdom and Australia, Luzinski said. In 2013, the city of Watertown, Wisconsin, started working to become the United States’ first dementia-friendly community.

Luzinski hopes Fort Collins will follow the lead.

“My vision is that it will eventually become an alliance of people dedicated to really helping people in the community get trained,” Luzinski said.

The Lincoln Center completed its dementia training in early November. It included “an in-depth discussion on the experiences of dementia sufferers and what exactly we can be doing from a customer service perspective,” said Jack Rodgers, the center’s general manager.

As society prepares to face what Rodgers called “an aging onslaught from the baby boomers”, he said it is important for communities to know how to serve those individuals and their caregivers.

“There’s clear evidence that participation in the arts enriches the lives of older adults in multiple ways,” Rodgers said. “The Lincoln Center strives to lead in culture experience for this community, to make it an essential value … and I think the important thing there is that we’re serving the entire community.”

The Senior Center completed its training Wednesday.

According to guidelines provided by Luzinski, dementia-friendly communities are places where people with dementia are:

•Able to live as independently as possible

•Met with understanding

•Supported as needed to be safe

•Encouraged to maintain their social connections

•Enabled to function in environments that minimize anxiety and maximize purpose, dignity, contentment and joy 

Social gatherings of people with dementia and their caregivers, called memory cafés, are an important part of creating dementia-friendly communities. A group currently meets at 10 a.m. the third Monday of every month at Timberline Church, and another will begin meeting at MacKenzie Place in January.

One of the greatest difficulties with dementia is how infrequently it is diagnosed, Luzinski said. One in three seniors who die each year have dementia, but only 45 percent are diagnosed, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

“The old school of thought is, ‘Why would we tell them? There’s nothing we can do,’ ” Luzinski said. “But in truth, by telling them and giving them a diagnosis, we can help their families better prepare … and their disease process isn’t likely to go down as fast if they’re staying engaged in the community.”

For more information about making Northern Colorado dementia-friendly, visit dementiafriendlycommunitiesnoco.org or contact Cyndy Luzinski at [email protected]