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Mankato dementia support celebrated

Free Press - 6/13/2024

Jun. 13—MANKATO — When it comes to supporting those with dementia, Mankato "rises to the top," one expert says.

Angela Lunde, an author of two books about dementia and associate in neurology at the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer'sDisease Research Center in Rochester, is the keynote speaker at the Dementia Friends Minnesota gathering on Monday in Mankato.

She said Mankato is leading the way with supporting people with dementia.

Dementia Friends Turns 10: A Celebration will recognize 10 years of supporting community members with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. It's scheduled for 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Monday at Mankato'sOld Main Village, 301 S. 5th St. in Mankato. The event is free and open to the public. After the event there will be a 45-minute dementia-friendly sculpture walk in downtown Mankato, according to a press release distributed by Dementia Friends.

"People are welcome to attend," said Maren Levad, Dementia Friends initiatives program manager. "We are excited to celebrate the amazing work the Mankato community has done around dementia friendliness."

"We are proud to celebrate this important milestone," Dementia Friends champion and Mankato resident Kim Alinder was quoted as saying in the release. "We are constantly working to make our community a good place for people living with dementia to live and thrive. With more than 900 friends in the Mankato area, we know we are making a real difference."

Colleen Fritsch, Dementia Friends champion coordinator and state wide lead trainer, said she too is impressed with how far they've come in training Mankato residents to best assist those with dementia.

"I remember when our goal was to have 500 people trained across the whole state," she said. "Now to think there are almost 1,000 people who have attended a Dementia Friends session in Mankato. There are almost 1,000 people in Mankato who better understand people with dementia and are better equipped to support them. That's kind of powerful to me."

The 10th anniversary celebration is co-hosted by Mankato & North Mankato ACT on Alzheimer's and Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging. And though it isn't known how many people in the Mankato area have dementia, about 10,000 Minnesotans suffer from it.

Lunde said the medical community can provide evaluations, diagnoses, treatments and access to research opportunities, but that's where "health care stops and where community picks up."

"Community really does the rest," she said. "There are some treatments available to slow the progression of the disease and to manage symptoms, but I would say when it comes to living well with dementia, communities pick up the slack. They make the biggest difference."

Dementia Friends Minnesota is a program of nonprofit organization Trellis — which helps people age well — and is part of a global movement to change the way we think, act and talk about dementia, Levad said.

The overarching goal of Dementia Friends is to train champions in communities across Minnesota to lead information sessions for the public and private groups. In so doing, the program aims to help individuals and communities to be more supportive of people living with dementia, according to the press release.

More than 27,000 Minnesotans have become Dementia Friends and that number will continue to grow, Fritsch said.

"Dementia is a medical condition but it's not an identity," said keynote speaker Lunde. "Dementia changes some things but not everything and not all at once."


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