Living Through Values: The Council Becomes a Dementia-Friendly Organization

Council staff at the end of the dementia-friendly training in January 2020.

Inclusivity, integrity and uncompromising respect are the Council’s core values. To continue incorporating those principles into our services, we recently became a dementia-friendly organization. Each month, partner organizations present at our staff meetings to all share what they are doing in the community. On Monday, January 13, Joy Schmidt from the Aging & Disability Resource Center (ADRC) of Dane County provided dementia-friendly training to staff.

Because of our work with an older population and our commitment to person-first customer service, understanding how we can better meet the needs of clients with dementia is vital to our mission.

“Given that we work with an older population and the health concerns they have, it is important for us to have all the information we can to best serve them,” says Amy Wurf, the Council’s Director of Education and Vision Services. “We want to know where people are coming from and be able to communicate with them effectively.”

The training consisted of a presentation on best practices, as well as a walk-through of the Council building to assess the environment and find any needed modifications.

Did You Know? Dementia impacts over five million Americans. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 110,000 people in Wisconsin live with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Dementia is a general term, NOT a diagnosis. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common disease that causes dementia. It is a group of symptoms that can include changes in:

  • Memory and Thinking
  • Understanding and Decision Making
  • Planning and Organizing
  • Behavior and Personality
  • Reading, Writing and Speaking
  • Movement and Balance

While it is a good idea not to generalize or assume, it can be helpful to know the signs of dementia so a level of comfort can be reached and communication can be effective and done with as little confusion as possible. Signs someone might have dementia are:

  • Looking confused or lost
  • Searching for something
  • Repeating questions
  • Inappropriate dress
  • Difficulty communicating
  • Difficulty comprehending
  • May say or do unusual things
  • Difficulty handling money

Best practices include speaking slowly and clearly, telling or asking one thing at a time, pausing between sentences to give the person time to respond and simplifying choices. In addition to continuing to adopt these communication practices, we added high-contrast, large and brailled signage indicating where to go for rest rooms and how to return to the lobby.

The training dovetails perfectly with the inclusion and respect shown to everyone who comes into contact with the Council.

“The training was a great reminder for us to slow down and focus on the person with whom we are speaking,” says Amy. “These suggestions are practices we already incorporate with anyone who walks through our doors.”

The Council joins a network nearly 400 Dane County businesses that are certified to serve people with dementia and their families. are certified to serve people with dementia and their families. To learn more about the program, contact your local ADRC. Find it on this list.


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