Madison Heights commits to be a ‘dementia-friendly community’

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published July 12, 2019

MADISON HEIGHTS — The Madison Heights City Council is raising awareness for those with dementia and their caregivers, making Madison Heights what the Michigan Dementia Coalition calls a “dementia-friendly community.”  

Dementia causes memory and thinking impairments, and it currently affects 190,000 people ages 65 and older in Michigan — a number that is expected to balloon to 220,000 by the year 2025.

Women over age 60 are disproportionately affected, with a 1-in-6 chance of developing dementia, while men have a 1-in-11 chance.

“Looking at the data and the increasing numbers every year for people afflicted with dementia and Alzheimer’s, it’s staggering, and as a city, I want us to get ahead of it,” said David Soltis, the city councilman who spearheaded a resolution on dementia that passed at the council meeting June 24.

“I think this is a good first step in the right direction,” he said. “We can help not only those in Madison Heights, but be partners with people in other cities across the state who are afflicted by this, and their family members. My goal was to at least recognize the people living with dementia: I don’t want them to feel invisible or marginalized. I want to dispel any stigmas associated with the diagnosis. I want to create more public awareness for the need for research into treatment and cures.”

Part of this effort will include Madison Heights providing information on classes and programs for dementia patients and their families, in partnership with the Area Agency on Aging 1-B and the Alzheimer’s Association at the Center on Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. Soltis said that such information may be made available at the city’s website and cable access network, on social media, in flyers and at the Active Adult Center, formerly known as the Senior Center.

Soltis said he would also like to begin looking into local services that could be provided to help residents with dementia. For example, one potential idea is to create a city service where qualified volunteers would step in to care for patients with dementia when the caregivers need a mental health break or have errands to run.

“There are two main goals,” Soltis said. “One, for those who wish to stay in their home, it can be difficult when they have Alzheimer’s or dementia, so I want to help those people remain in their own home; and two, I also want to provide dignity and the best quality of life possible for them.”  

Alzheimer’s, in particular, is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. More than 5.8 million Americans are living with the disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

“On behalf of these individuals, caregivers and others affected by Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia, we very much appreciate cities like Madison Heights who have stepped up and made the commitment to become dementia-friendly communities,” said Kate Dickinson, spokeswoman for the Alzheimer’s Association — Greater Michigan Chapter, in a statement. “The goal of a dementia-friendly community is to ensure people with dementia can live a full and enriched life for as long as possible. To do this, we strive to spread awareness and show where to turn for assistance.”

The Alzheimer’s Association has a 24/7 help line available for those in need at (800) 272-3900.