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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.”

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