collaborative, community-level change to foster dementia friendliness. As each sector takes its own steps to foster support, a community that is informed, safe and respectful emerges to foster quality of life for those living with dementia and their care partners, the website also noted.
“Last year at the White House Conference on Aging, the county executive was asked if Prince George’s County would be one of six adopter agencies,” said Karen H. Sylvester, planner and unit manager at the county’s family services department. “Since that time, we have partnered with Gloria Lawlah and senior family supports to champion this effort in Prince George’s County. Some of the progress we’ve made so far is we’ve participated in two national meetings, we’ve educated our advisory committee so that they know and we’ve formed three regional teams — a north team that meets in Greenbelt, a central team that meets in District Heights and a southern team that meets in the Camp Springs area.”
Sylvester said the regional teams — which consist of people from the health and business communities, government and even law enforcement — are going to help the family services department develop processes so that every sector of the community will learn about dementia and how the department can best serve people, and caregivers, who have family members with the disease.
“There’s not a whole lot of money involved. It’s really about education of the community,” Sylvester said. “People who interact with people everyday so that they can become more sensitive. So if they see something out of the norm, they can report it or if they recognize it, they can help caregivers work through whatever they may need to work through without feeling uncomfortable.”
When it comes to talking about a sensitive topic, Baker shared his personal story about his 56-year-old wife, Christa Beverly, who not only suffers from dementia, but also can’t walk or speak.
“For my daughters and my son and I, this is our life,” Baker said. “You don’t really think about it as different. I get up at 5:30 in the morning, get my wife dressed, I prepare everything for the day and then I go to work. I come home at night, get her undressed and ready for bed — that includes everything from brushing her teeth [to] changing her. Everything. She has no ability to do anything. And so you don’t really think about that; that’s just what you do.”
Baker said he wanted to get involved with the DFA initiative because he wants to be an advocate for other caregivers who are challenged with certain realities.
“This disease is here. It’s increasing. It’s expanding,” he said. “We need to do a couple of things. One is raise money for research. Two, convince people to go into trials. And three, raise awareness. … When you do that, resources will be there and acceptance will be there.”
For caregivers like Tyrone Hollis, a legal guardian for his mother who has dementia, he is just trying to make ends meet and get through one day at a time.
“The difference with me is I work for myself,” said Hollis, who owns his own towing company. “It’s hard when you don’t have the income to try to maintain just a normal quality of life. I’ve been taking care of my mother since October of last year and I’ve been paying out of pocket to have a caretaker come for three days a week, four hours a day, $50 an hour. … I’ve just got to learn to deal with it until I can get some help.”
Hollis said his business has been struggling because of the time he has to spend taking care of his 78-year-old mother in Washington, D.C. At one point, Hollis’ financial situation deteriorated enough that his friends had to help pay bills for him.
“The most important thing I would like to see happen is to make more programs available for people that don’t have the income,” Hollis said. “I’m trying to work hard enough to where I can have my own money and have somebody take care of me for me. But for my mother, she worked all of her life and she don’t have anything except the little that she gets every month. And it’s not enough.”
“Just the stress of caring for a loved one is difficult,” Sylvester said. “It’s really important to have others who can empathize with you because then you feel like you have that support you need in order to keep going.”