Dementia Friendly Middleton Celebrates Five Years

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MTT News's picture
Cameron Bren
Dementia care specialist Joy Schmidt hands Mayor Gurdip Brar a mini potbelly pig; Brar, Assembly Rep. Dianne Hesselbein, volunteer Stacy Austin-Li and Schmidt; Teddy and sister Eloise of Middleton enjoyed the petting zoo.

MIDDLETON–Dementia Friendly Middleton (DFM), a volunteer organization dedicated to improving the lives of people with dementia and their caregivers through awareness, education and programming, celebrates five years of success. 

DFM volunteer Stacy Austin-Li organized the event to celebrate the strides the community has made since the initiative started in April 2014. Fifty business in Middleton have been recognized as dementia friendly, educating their staff and organizing social events for people with memory loss. All city departments including police and fire have also received dementia awareness education. 

Austin-Li says the initiative took off  2014 when the Middleton Common Council voted on a resolution affirming the city's commitment to becoming a dementia friendly community, the first in Dane County to do so. 

A task force was initiated by the Alzheimer's and Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin and Dementia Specialist for the Aging and Disability Resource Center in Dane County Joy Schmidt. 

Schmidt said the county chose the good neighbor city to pilot the program and collaborated with the city, library, the senior center, the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Alliance and volunteers. 

“We came together and said we need to improve the service and support for people living with memory loss just to make sure people are aware of it and learn how to better communicate,” Schmidt says.

In five years the coalition of volunteers has worked with the city to help initiate programming like music and memory and virtual dementia tours at the library, advocate for safety and comfort measures in the parks to increase accessibility, Austin-Li said. They have also provided over 75 training sessions to businesses and community organizations to increase awareness of the challenges faced by persons living with dementia in our community and how to provide better customer service to those who may be experiencing cognitive difficulties.

The event was held at Common Ground cafe on Century Ave. A petting zoo and club cart tours through the conservancy were offered to attendees. 

“We wanted to host it as a community and family celebration because whole families are affected in that journey,” Austin-Li explained. “It is a community wide issue.”

She said Common Ground is a great example of a dementia friendly business. They educate their staff and hold a memory café, a social gathering for people with memory loss.

“There is a lot to celebrate in this community as it takes root in this company,” Austin-Li stated. “There is still a lot to do but there is also a lot to celebrate.”

Mayor Grudip Brar, whose mother-in-law had dementia, said he is working with the Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy and the city to hold memory walks, which are about a quarter mile loop, for people with memory loss.

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