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Health

New Initiative Seeks To Make Orange County A Friendlier Place For People With Dementia

A picture of an elderly couple holding hands.
Garry Knight
/
Flickr
The Orange County Department on Aging wants to make it easier for people with dementia to be out and about as their diseases progress.

The federal Administration for Community Living has awarded Orange County $900,000 over the next three years to help make the community a more inclusive place for families touched by Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

Director Janice Tyler said the Orange County Department on Aging will use the funds to support care givers.

"We just wanted to make it easy, particularly for their caregivers, to take these folks out in the community, because we all want to age in community," Tyler said. "We want to stay in our homes, and we want to local business community and any place that you go for social gatherings, that it be welcoming and that you don't have to apologize that my loved one has some cognitive impairment."

The agency is working with the East Chapel Hill Rotary Club to train local businesses to recognize symptoms and serve customers with dementia.

Lorenzo Mejia owns Acorn Home Care Services and is leading the Orange County Dementia-Friendly Business Campaign.

"The most important businesses are things that people need on a regular, day-to-day basis: Banking is important, grocery, retail, drugstores," he said. He added that non-profit organizations are also appreciated.

Mejia said 10 businesses have committed to the Dementia-Friendly Business Campaign training so far. He hopes to train 100 in the next year.

Carol Hay of Hillsborough said she's gratified that the county has launched this initiative. Hay said her mother's dementia made it difficult to get her the care she needed, or to take her in public while she was able to go out.

"It was such a daily battle and it didn't need to be," Hay said. "And to have community support behind this effort, to know that this kind of support is out there is overwhelming."

Hay co-founded OurMothersVoice.org, which provides information to families of nursing home residents to help them advocate for them.

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