Striving for a Dementia Friendly America

Across the nation, communities and organizations like CJE are working together to build a stronger support system for people living with dementia and their families.

By Nicole Bruce

The gentleman in front of you at the grocery store is having trouble finding his change to pay for his items. He seems confused, and repeatedly asks the cashier, now visibly frustrated, how much he owes. Would you
recognize that these could be signs of dementia or feel compelled to help?

The Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures Report (2017) estimates that 220,000 people in Illinois have dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease. By 2025, this number will increase by 18% to 260,000 people. When we take into account that each person with dementia may have multiple family or professional caregivers, another 588,000 persons living in Illinois are impacted by dementia. As a result, the Dementia Friendly Illinois and greater Dementia Friendly America (DFA) initiatives are changing the way people—and communities—think, act and talk about dementia.

Every part of community life —from neighborhood social groups, schools and faith-based organizations to businesses and health care providers to public transportation services—has a unique role in contributing to dementia friendliness. As each of these sectors take their own small steps to offer support, a community that is informed, safe and respectful emerges to foster a better quality of life for those living with dementia and their care partners.

Dementia Friendly Illinois, supported by the Illinois Cognitive Resources Network, hopes to reverse the narrative to improve the journey of persons with dementia and their support systems. CJE SeniorLife, recognized as a leading organization in the state to help support the DFA initiative, continues to promote cognitive health and quality of life in its communitybased programming for older adults and their caregivers through research, education, training and the delivery of support services.

Education is a key aspect to relieving the stigma that is still associated with dementia. For example, CJE’s Leonard Schanfield Research Institute partnered with CATCH-ON, a geriatric workforce enhancement program, to create free online training modules for older adults and their families as well as professionals and students. Other programs for CJE professionals are planned regularly throughout the year.

CJE staff also often serve on other organizations’ dementia-related advisory committees and are involved in a number of community programs, including the Evanston-based “Memory Café,” a new monthly coffee shop that provides support and social opportunities for people with dementia and their caregivers.

All too often, persons living with or at risk for dementia feel alone and unheard. As part of the DFA movement, older adult members from CJE’s Bureau of Sages research group that includes professionals, family caregivers, and residents from CJE’s Lieberman Center and Friend Center for Memory Care have all voiced their responses to the question: “How can we create a more ‘Dementia Friendly America’ together?” Their answers are inspiring, uplifting and insightful. By helping everyone in a community understand what dementia is and how it affects people, each of us can make a difference for people impacted by a dementia diagnosis.

CJE has several specialized, dementia friendly residential options and community programs that maximize quality of life through meaningful engagement as well as provide respite opportunities for caregivers. Call us at 773.508.1000.

COMMUNITIES, BIG AND SMALL, CAN BECOME MORE DEMENTIA FRIENDLY BY TAPPING INTO THE  RESOURCES AVAILABLE THROUGH THESE NETWORKS: provides communities with free practice tools for cognitive impairment, such as a decision support tool for dementia care, a protocol practice tool for mid- to late-stage dementia, care coordination practice tools, and tips and action steps to share with a person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. features a Dementia Friendly Illinois page, which collects and shares resource—including CJE’s video series for DFA—to support the efforts of communities in Illinois to become part of the Dementia Friendly America initiative.