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Making Tempe A Dementia-Friendly Community Is A Family Affair

dementia tempe
(Photo courtesy of City of Tempe)
The Mitchell family

The City of Tempe will kick off a conversation Saturday to learn how to improve the lives of people living with dementia and their caregivers. Tempe is one of six communities that will test drive an initiative put forth by the organization Dementia Friendly America.

Last summer, the White House Conference on Aging announced that Tempe would pilot an effort to become dementia friendly. The idea is guide communities through a process that will ultimately lead to a dementia-friendly designation. Saturday’s event is meant to be a conversation starter among stakeholders. Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell is one of those stakeholders. His mother has Alzheimer’s disease.

"What my family has been facing is not uncommon," Mitchell said. "One in nine of all seniors have some sort of dementia, and in the next 10 years, Arizona will see a 71 percent increase in the number of our residents with dementia."

His father, former U.S. Congressman Harry Mitchell visits his wife every morning to help her eat breakfast. His wife has Alzheimer’s disease, and Mitchell said she gets easily distracted, so he wants to make sure she stays on task. For Mitchell, Saturday’s kick off summit affects everyone, even if they don’t yet know it.

"She said there are only four kinds of people in the world," Mitchell said. "Those who have been caregivers; those who are currently caregivers; those who will be caregivers; and those who will need caregivers. And I think more than anything, that sums up why we should have a summit like this and why the city should be dementia friendly."

Mitchell is referring to is former First Lady Rosalynn Carter. Mitchell said he hopes the event will encourage communication among community members.

Some ideas being considered include training first responders about the signs of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, creating so-called memory cafes where people can gather and talk and having businesses post a logo showing that they are dementia friendly. 

KJZZ senior field correspondent Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.