Dementia -a comprehensive term for a decline in mental ability- is a term that many are hearing more and more often. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates 520,000 individuals are living with Alzheimer’s Disease – the most common form of Dementia – in Florida, making it the second highest incidence rate of the disease in the nation. That number is expected to grow to 720,000 individuals in the next 10 years and does not count the other forms of dementia or the hundreds of thousands of individuals who serve as caregivers for their loved ones. Despite the growing number of individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease or Related Dementias (ADRD) and the many advances made in breaking down the stigmas of the disease, there is much work to be done to address the needs and challenges individuals, families, and communities may face. Florida seeks to lead the nation in response to the increased incidence by creating the Dementia Care and Cure Initiative (DCCI).
DCCI was announced in 2015 by Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Department of Elder Affairs as a statewide effort to increase the awareness of dementia; provide assistance to dementia-caring communities; and continue advocacy for care and cure programs. While DCCI is a state-wide effort, the Initiative recognizes the diversity of each community in the state and the unique challenges those with ADRD and their families may encounter. Thus, DCCI works with the state’s 16 Memory Disorder Clinics and the 11 Area Agencies on Aging to create task forces to disseminate information about ADRD, the resources available to those with the disease and their families, and how to safely and respectfully communicate with those with dementia to promote their continued participation in the community.
Task Forces currently exist in the cities of Tallahassee, Sarasota, Ft, Myers, and Orlando with plans to extend the initiative to the cities of Jacksonville and Pensacola by the end of the year. Tallahassee gained recognition of being the state’s first Dementia-Friendly community after providing awareness to over 5,000 law enforcement officers, health care providers, homeless shelter advocates, fire fighters, and EMTs. Now in partnership with Scent Evidence K9, the Tallahassee Task Force seeks to spread the awareness to businesses, city employees, and throughout the rural areas surrounding Tallahassee. The cities of Sarasota, Ft. Myers, and Orlando have only recently begun their efforts but have already made great strides in identifying the areas of their cities that would benefit directly from the mission of the initiative and have laid plans to begin dementia sensitivity trainings with their local city leaders and first responders.
The Dementia Care and Cure Initiative truly relies not only on the collaborative efforts of Task Force members, such as Paul Coley with Scent Evidence K9, but on each unique sector of the community. When communities adopt a collaborative approach in becoming Dementia-Friendly, a more cohesive and beneficial community is available for all to enjoy. The Initiative looks forward to growing to new communities throughout Florida and leading the nation in the critical response to Alzheimer’s Disease or Related Dementias.
by Christine Sherrill, MSW
Program Coordinator, Dementia Care and Cure Initiative
Florida Department of Elder Affairs
Bureau of Elder Rights