Initiative advances education and awareness of dementia

What does it take to become a Dementia Friend?

About an hour of your time and the willingness to help someone struggling with memory loss.

A Dementia Friend is someone who wants to make a positive difference in the lives of people with the condition, according to CICOA Aging and In-Home Solutions of Indianapolis.

Dementia Friends Indiana is set to begin in Jackson County next week to help break down the stigma surrounding dementia.

Thrive Alliance was granted a license from not-for-profit CICOA and adopted the initiative.

The movement seeks to advance education and awareness of dementia, reduce the stigma associated with the conditions and create community environments that are welcoming to those living with dementia and their caregivers.

Shelby Eggers, wellness and community education manager for Thrive Alliance, said one in nine people over 65 have dementia, and about half of people over 85 have some form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

“In response to the growing need, Thrive Alliance is leading the effort to create dementia-friendly communities across south central Indiana,” Eggers said.

Thrive Alliance is offering a virtual information session to anyone interested in learning how to become a Dementia Friend and also learn ways to make the community more dementia-friendly. The information session will be at noon May 14 via Zoom and will be led by Eggers, a dementia champion.

There is no charge, but registration is needed in advance by signing up through or the Thrive Alliance Facebook page. Entrants will be provided a Zoom link upon registering.

Eggers has been working on the initiative with Sue Lamborn, Thrive Alliance outreach manager.

“CICOA did the pilot program for the state, and we did a pilot program for them in Bartholomew County,” Lamborn said. “Dementia Friends is an initiative where we evaluate the communities that we’re living in to see if they are dementia-friendly.”

For instance, a Dementia Friend could look at signage on streets in downtown Seymour to see if the signs are at eye level so they could be clearly seen.

“We want to look at all the factors at shops, restaurants, churches and help make everything dementia-friendly,” Lamborn said.

She said approximately 818 people over 65 in Jackson County have dementia. Out of that 818, there are 67 people over 85. Approximately 116 people with dementia live alone.

“We’re not going to be building any more memory units, which means these people are going to be living in our community,” Lamborn said. “How are we going to get ready for that and how can we help the people with dementia as well as their caregiver?”

The caregiver is in a situation where they are not able to go out and socialize and are constantly in a state of caring.

Sometimes, they don’t know how comfortable a person with dementia might be if taken out to a restaurant and how they’re going to act and what are they going to do.

Lamborn said one of the things that always comes to mind are Dementia Friendly restaurants. Menus with fewer items with pictures, rather than 80 items on a menu, is helpful for someone with dementia. Other helpful tips include having the lighting and music turned down and being seated by the kitchen.

“Plus, we can give the staff communication tips they can use with someone who has dementia,” Lamborn said. “I took the lead with doing dementia-friendly dining with Amazing Joe’s in Columbus.”

Lamborn said Dementia Friends committee meetings have resulted in suggestions for a continuum of care services for people with dementia and caregivers with their music and memory program, which soothes the person with dementia and gives the caregiver a break.

Companion Pets also are used for dementia patients. The lifelike robotic pets bring comfort, companionship and fun.

“Once people go through the hourlong informational session, at the end, they will be considered Dementia Friends,” Eggers said. “Part of this information session is to have an action item toward the end of our time together as to how can we make our community more dementia-friendly.”

Eggers said it could be an action item as simple as telling family and friends about this initiative or it could be as big as getting a group of people together and working on the signage of Seymour.

“So there are lots of different opportunities to help the community and be more dementia-friendly as a whole,” Eggers said.

Lamborn said the instructional session will teach people tips for when they’re out in the community and how to identify someone with dementia.

“Let’s say I’m walking down the streets of Seymour and I have dementia and someone sees that I’m a little bit confused,” Lamborn said. “Instead of saying, ‘Are you lost again, Sue?’ the person could instead ask, ‘Where are you going? Oh, the diner? It’s just up the block,’ and be helpful in that way.”

The information session also will explain how to be patient with a person who has dementia. It’s about being nice to each other and being respectful, Lamborn said.

Thrive Alliance is planning a kickoff in Seymour for the Dementia Friends Indiana program, where speakers will come in and talk about the initiative and how people can get involved, but that probably won’t happen until this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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What: Dementia Friends information session

When: Noon May 14

Where: Online via Zoom

Cost: Free

Registration: or through the Thrive Alliance Facebook page

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Dementia Friends Indiana information sessions have five main points:

  • Dementia is not a normal part of aging
  • Dementia is caused by a disease of the brain
  • Dementia is more than just memory problems
  • It’s still possible to have a good quality of life
  • There’s more to the person than the dementia

Launching a Dementia Friends Indiana movement in the community:

  • Grow the number of Dementia Friends by attending a Dementia Friends information session
  • Develop community partners who want to embrace and promote the movement
  • Lead environmental improvement initiatives to make communities safe and more welcoming
  • Gain public support for Dementia Friends Indiana at local and state government levels
  • Dementia Friends Indiana becomes a household name among all community sectors

Dementia defined:

Memory loss, communication and language difficulty, decline in reasoning and judgment, inability to focus and pay attention and visual perception issues.

For information, call Shelby Eggers at 812-372-6918, ext. 3011.