By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Hudson – “Action” is the keyword for the Hudson action team of the dementia-friendly community initiative. As its first course of action, the Hudson police and health departments collaborated with the senior center to create a dementia-friendly registry. The free program was announced via a flier mailed Jan. 20 to all residents with the annual town census form.
Questions on the flier asked, “Do you have a loved one with dementia? Are you concerned they could become disoriented or lost within our community?” According to the Alzheimer’s Association website, “More than 60 percent of those with dementia will wander.”
The initiative, named Come 2 B Dementia Friendly, began in 2015 with a grant from BayPath Elder Services to the Hudson, Marlborough and Northborough senior centers. It’s modeled after Act on Alzheimer’s in Minnesota. The three local communities each formed an action team. Chairing the Hudson team is Kelli Calo, sanitarian at Hudson Health Department.
“BayPath asked each senior center to gather a team of people who are interested in the topic of dementia, then they formed a survey team,” she explained.
Janice Long, director of Hudson Senior Center, is grateful for the grassroots public support.
“I’m so impressed with the number of people showing an interest and getting involved,” she said. “Every one of them knows somebody dealing with dementia. A lot of people with dementia were valued in their community – they still can be. All it takes is understanding from other community members.”
Surveys to determine needs were conducted last summer with representatives of several sectors including business, caregiver services and supports, clinic, community member, community services and supports, faith, health care provider, home care, legal and financial, local government, and residential setting. Results of 105 surveys in Hudson identified a need for more training and education; publications and resources; awareness, particularly among younger residents; and programs for people with dementia and their caregivers.
Lou Tagliani of the Hudson action team suggested creating the dementia-friendly registry. While the Alzheimer’s Association has a nationwide registry, the team deemed a localized approach would be more effective. Hudson Police Chief Michael Burks Sr. agrees.
“It’s quicker for us to have the information here at our fingertips rather than call the national registry,” Burks said. “We’ll have the ability to focus on individuals in Hudson and surrounding communities.”
Registration is done at three locations or home visits. The brief process can be expedited with a phone call in advance. A photo is taken to be kept on file. A form includes health concerns, medications and two contact names. Locations are Hudson Senior Center, 29 Church St., 978-568-9638; Hudson Health Department at Town Hall, 78 Main St., 978-562-2020; and Hudson Police Department (HPD), 62 Packard St., 978-562-7122.
Within a few weeks after the announcement, 15 were registered with others expressing interest. Administering the registry is Officer Wendy LaFlamme, senior liaison of HPD. She registered two at-home visits, two were walk-ins at the HPD station, and a man who went to the senior center for his first time expressly because of the registry. LaFlamme also registered 10 participants of Daybreak, an adult daycare and caregiver respite program at the senior center.
“I go to Daybreak so they’ll become familiar with police,” LaFlamme said. “Sometimes when people get dementia, they get scared and I want them to know we’re friendly. Some of them are starting to forget my name, but they still recognize a familiar face when I give them a hug.”
The team’s next action will be community education and dementia-sensitivity training, for which Calo wrote and received a grant from CHNA 7 MetroWest.
“The education portion will start as in-person training with police, firefighters and EMTs in Hudson,” she explained. “Marlborough and Northborough opted for online training.”
Afterward, there will be a train-the-trainer session. Those trainers will go to sites including banks, restaurants and stores. Employees will be trained how to improve interaction between them and customers with dementia.
“Train-the-trainer will be done in Hudson,” Calo noted. “We’ll invite Marlborough and Northborough to participate.”
Chief Burks believes that the dementia-sensitivity training will benefit everyone involved.
“Training is going to make for a better officer, a better community relation and a better community,” he said.