LiveWell leads drive for dementia friendly living in Southington

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SHERIDAN ROY

STAFF WRITER

LiveWell of Southington continues to be the state leader for Dementia Friends Connecticut, and has been growing stronger as more and more local businesses and individuals join in on the initiative to make Southington dementia-friendly.

According to some studies, 70% of people living with dementia live at home and remain independent. They still go out to go grocery shopping, going to the library, using the bank or visiting restaurants and coffee shops. By becoming a certified dementia friendly business, staff members are trained in how to recognize the signs of a person living with dementia so that they might be able to offer assistance when needed.

“It is important to be able to recognize the situation, and to have some ability to help,” said LiveWell director of community development Katy O’Leary.

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Businesses and individuals who choose to take part in the initiative are offered education and a different perspective—a look into the day to day challenges a person living with dementia may face. O’Leary said it’s the simple changes that can make the biggest difference, such as limiting menu choices in a restaurant, or limiting distractions in general.

Last year, LiveWell partnered with the Southington Public Library to offer “memory cafés.” The Southington memory café is one of just a few of its kind in Connecticut compared to Massachusetts where there are more than 100 memory cafés. The cafés are simply a place for people living with dementia and their caregivers to come together for an activity, light refreshments and socialization.

“It’s about coming together. It’s a very basic model, but for some, it can be life-changing,” said O’Leary. “The café provides what we all want—connection to each other, a shared experience. It’s not a ‘support group,’ but it can come to be a supportive group of people.”

Soon, Southington will be home to two memory cafes. Southington’s soup kitchen Bread for Life (BFL) will begin their own memory café, with help from LiveWell. Starting in March, BFL will host a monthly memory café program.

LiveWell
1261 S Main St, Plantsville, CT 06479
Phone: (860) 628-9000
www.livewell.org

With the help of funds recently provided by the Tufts Health Plan momentum grant, LiveWell will develop a memory café network across Connecticut. The organization will offer training to build hosts’ knowledge and confidence, as well as provide guidelines on activities for the café. LiveWell will develop a “tool kit” for memory café hosts, designed in partnership with people living with dementia.

“Having people living with dementia helping us to create this tool kit is the ‘special sauce’ that has been missing,” said O’Leary. “Their perspective is so important.”

As the state lead for Dementia Friends Connecticut, LliveWell will also offer a Dementia Friends information session at café locations so individuals in the community can learn about dementia and small ways they can be helpful to those affected by the disease.

LiveWell opened in 1992 in Plantsville as a nonprofit focused exclusively on caring for individuals at all stages of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia. Today, LiveWell continues as a pioneer in dementia care and is recognized as one of the most knowledgeable resources in the nation for individuals impacted by dementia. With an understanding of the challenges that confront families on this difficult journey, LiveWell has developed effective models of care that are respectful, dignified and have compassion at their core.

To learn more about Dementia Friendly Southington or about local memory cafes, or to become a Dementia Friend, visit dementiafriendsct.org/Southington or contact koleary@livewell.org or (860) 628-3062.

The Southington library memory cafes are held on the second Tuesday of each month from 1 to 2:30 p.m. The next memory café event is Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 1 p.m.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at News@SouthingtonObserver.com.