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tia – the broad term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Its aim is to decrease stigma and isolation by building the ca- pacity of residents, businesses, organizations and town services to create a place where people living with dementia and their families are supported, in- cluded, and enjoy a good quality of life.
Already 700 residents, including more than 50 town employees, have become Dementia Friends by attending a free one-hour information session since the initiative began in 2017. They learned about de- mentia, a bit about what it’s like to live with it, and small ways to be helpful and supportive. Mark Sci- ota, Southington Town Manager, shared that “The town always strives to improve its customer service to all residents, including those affected by demen- tia. I am very pleased that so many of our employees chose to participate in the Dementia Friends ses- sion to deepen their knowledge and understand- ing.”
And the need is there – in Southington, it’s es- timated that about 3,600 people are living with de- mentia. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia. Most individuals with the disease live at home. When you consider their family members, caregivers and friends, the impact of their care is substantial.
LiveWell Dementia Specialists, a nonprofit lo- cated in Plantsville, formerly known as the Alzheim- er’s Resource Center, leads the Dementia Friendly Southington initiative. Thanks to the generous sup- port from the Bradley Henry Barnes and Leila Up- son Barnes Memorial Trust at the Main Street Com- munity Foundation, LiveWell is working to make Southington the state’s first Dementia Friendly
community. LiveWell also leads Dementia Friends Connecticut, as part of the Dementia Friendly America network.
Communities and families across the U.S. are in- creasingly feeling the impact of dementia. Currently, one in every ten Americans more than 65 years old has Alzheimer’s dementia, and one in every three people more than 85 years old has the disease. In the US, 5.8 million people are living with Alzheim- er’s, with over 78,000 of them living in Connecticut.
Dementia Friends information sessions are an informative and powerful way to raise awareness. They are co-led by one of two men who share their own stories of living with dementia; Bob Savage, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease four years ago, or Charles Michalak, diagnosed eight years ago, at age 49, with Frontotemporal demen- tia (FTD). Both men will tell you that they are doing more than just living with dementia. They are living well because they find purpose in their advocacy.
They and others in the Dementia Peer Coali- tion, an independent peer-to-peer support group co-founded by Bob and operated by and for people living with dementia, use their voices to share their experiences. Some members also participate in an interactive theater program called To Whom I May Concern®. It’s performed by people who have been diagnosed with dementia. Using their own words, these individuals generously share their stories and experiences before live audiences.
Southington’s Deputy Police Chief Bill Palmieri credits programming like this with significantly rais- ing his awareness of the needs of people living with dementia. Recently while driving his squad car in town, he noticed a couple on the sidewalk and had
Southington Magazine — Autumn 2019
Southington Deputy Police Chief Bill Palmieri

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