There are many common misunderstandings about dementia. What is it? How do people get it? When does it occur? People assume that those with dementia are only those living in a nursing home or other facility. In reality, there are individuals in our community who live with dementia, care for themselves, and live at home.

Dementia is a general term used to describe over 100 different conditions that impair memory, behaviors, feelings, and thinking. Some types of dementia are reversed with treatment, while others are not. Dementia conditions occur gradually and are caused by damaged brain cells. This damage affects the brain cells ability to communicate with each other. When they can’t communicate, thinking, memory, behavior, and feelings are affected.

Alzheimer’s disease, the leading form of dementia, is irreversible and is the sixth leading cause of death in Wisconsin. In 2018, the number of Wisconsinites age 65 years and older living with Alzheimer’s disease will be 110,000. That number is expected to increase by almost 20% in the next 7 years to 130,000.

Our community needs to be ready for this and is preparing now. The Wolf River Dementia and Caregiver Network which serves Oconto, Shawano, and Menominee counties and the Menominee and Stockbridge-Munsee tribes is made up of partners in health fields, businesses, and church organizations. The mission of this network is to bring together individuals and resources to assist, educate, and empower our communities to improve the quality of life for anyone affected by issues of aging, dementia and/or caregiving. The network, funded by the Forget Me Not Fund, assists in building dementia-friendly communities.

A dementia-friendly community is a place where individuals with dementia have the ability to remain as independent as possible, continue to be part of their communities, are met with understanding and are given support, along with support for their caregivers. The Network is working carefully to build these dementia friendly communities by offering educational training to professionals, businesses, and community members. The network also aids in creating and sustaining Memory Cafés in our communities.

To learn more about dementia-friendly communities, the Wolf River Dementia and Caregiver Network, Memory Cafés, and the Forget Me Not Fund, Inc., contact Brittany Warrichaiet RN, Oconto County Public Health, at 920-834-7000 or visit the Forget Me Not Fund website,