Since 2008, Eric and Bernadette Russow have been on a mission to help raise awareness and build a more welcoming community to individuals affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia in Walworth County. Starting as volunteers with the Walk to End Alzheimer’s to opening the first Memory Cafes in Walworth County, the Russows knew they needed to do more: create a dementia friendly community.
The Dementia Friendly Community Initiative, Inc. works to identify, cultivate, and support other community leaders in developing strategies to achieve more dementia friendly communities. To do so, the Dementia Friendly Community Initiative provides accessible education resources, inclusive training programs, and emotional support.
“To be Dementia Friendly means that at least 50% of employees of a business have been trained to recognize the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and can properly interact and communicate with the individual,” says Eric Russow.
The Russows, along with their crew of volunteers, provide free training programs customized to each businesses, organizations, and individuals needs. Additionally, the Dementia Friendly Community Initiative offers support to caregivers, families, and individuals affected by the disease.
The Russows have trained staff at Old World Wisconsin, City of Elkhorn Police, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Police, and The Walworth County Visitors Bureau as well as other first responders, faith communities, and community government agencies.
“To be trained and recognized as a Dementia Friendly organization means that you are an open door and a smiling face ready to help alleviate some stresses that come with traveling and going about life with a loved one affected by this disease,” says Bernadette, “Why wouldn’t you want to be a welcoming organization to all residents in your community?”
“This training is becoming more and more important as the county’s population grows older. By helping people understand what dementia is and how it affects families, we can make a difference,” said Eric.
Recently, the DFCI announced their plans to launch the Cycling Without Age Program. Cycling Without Age will provide the opportunity for those with mobility issues the joy and vitality of enjoying the outdoors and various community programs that they are not currently able to enjoy via tri-shaw electric-assisted cargo bike. The bikes are safe, equipped with a seatbelt and driven by a trained and certified volunteer pilot.
To learn more about the DFCI, visit their website at DFCWalworth.org.