Fall River Businesses Bank on Becoming Dementia Friendly

SHARE REPRINTED FROM FALL RIVER HERALD NEWS By Deborah Allard Herald News Staff Reporter 

Mar 24, 2017 FALL RIVER — Fall River Municipal Credit Union became the first dementia friendly business in the city after being trained on how best to interact with people suffering from the disease’s trademark mental decline and loss of memory. “We’re finally doing this,” said Bristol Elders Services CEO Nancy Munson. “This is our first.” Bristol Elders, after offering a summit in the fall to make Fall River a dementia friendly community, has begun signing up businesses for the special training. Walsh Pharmacy employees will be trained next week. “Businesses are starting to line up,” Munson said. “It’s going to help those customers. They’ll say ‘this is a place we can go.’” Upon completion of the short training presentation, businesses will be given a dementia friendly sign for their window or door letting the public know that employees understand dementia and the special needs of those suffering from the disease and their caregivers.  A dementia friendly community brings awareness of dementia to as many people as possible including those in banking, retail and restaurant establishments, city offices, first responders, health care facilities, churches, and others. Atty. Jane E. Sullivan, who specializes in elder law, estate planning and probate, presented the training to FRMCU employees. She said some 1,500 people in Greater Fall River have been diagnosed with dementia, with many more going undiagnosed. Some 25 percent of those with dementia and Alzheimer’s live alone. “Our goal is to be able to help (people with dementia and Alzheimer’s) live in the community,” Sullivan said. “We want them to be able to continue to go to all the places they want to.” Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia. Others can include vascular and alcohol dementia and other types brought on by certain diseases. While it typically affects elders, early onset dementia can start in the 60s, 50s, and even 40s. “We want people to be aware of the signs and symptoms,” Sullivan said. “We want to greet them with support and empathy.” People with dementia may have some troubles when inside a business or facility like not remembering how to begin a transaction, locating the exit, becoming confused when counting money, or they may repeat themselves. A person with dementia may appear restless or agitated at times. They may have a hard time filtering conversation from overhead music. Sullivan said it’s best for employees to speak slowly, ask one question at a time, use their name when speaking to them, stay calm, and be courteous and helpful. And, never argue with a person with dementia. “They’re counting on you to help get them through the situation,” Sullivan said. Bristol Elder Services, which serves the greater Attleboro, Fall River and Taunton areas, chose Fall River to be its first dementia friendly community because it is its largest service area, and because Fall River has a high rate of dementia risk factors like heart disease and diabetes, and because it has already become part of a Healthy City initiative. “We deal with a lot of elderly who come in and do their banking,” said FRMCU President and CEO Matthew G. Schondek. “We see them starting to slow down. If we recognize it, we can help. If we get a lot of businesses involved, we can help people stay in the community.” To be a part of the dementia friendly community effort, contact Munson at Bristol Elder Services at 508-675-2101. To learn more about dementia friendly communities, visit dfamerica.org Email Deborah Allard at dallard@heraldnews.com