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Loíza becomes 1st municipality to participate in Dementia Friends program

The Municipality of Loíza has joined health organization Dementia Friends and Triple-S in an effort to raise awareness and change the way society acts, thinks, and speaks about dementia, the town Mayor Julia Nazario announced.

Dementia Friends is an initiative that educates on the challenges of living with and caring for a person with dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s, and how to help these people maintain greater independence and continue to live in their communities.

“These efforts are focused on coordinating and providing training workshops that help recognize the symptoms of dementia and allow the person to carry out their daily tasks, whether in a doctor’s office, interacting with a government agency, in the grocery store, the bank or in the community in general,” the mayor said.

“We, in Loíza, are going to begin the workshops on Feb. 4 with a group of religious and community leaders and then we will continue to convene different sectors such as businesses, municipal employees, schools and the community in general,” Nazario said.

“We were also a pioneer municipality in vaccinating bedridden people who received the doses against COVID-19, which allowed us to have a more precise picture of the needs of this population,” she said.

“Adults over the age of 65 are the fastest growing segment of the population and are most vulnerable to developing different types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s. This initiative aims to train us as a society so that we can support the independent life of patients with symptoms of dementia for as many years as possible,” said José Novoa, Triple-S chief medical officer.

This promotes a better quality of life for the patient, a more inclusive society and prevents overloading the health system, he said.

“Our goal is for Puerto Rico to be recognized as a dementia friendly island, and with allies such as Triple-S and the Municipality of Loíza, we believe we can reach many sectors of society,” said Ana Gratacós, director of Dementia Friends in Puerto Rico, vice president of the Puerto Rico Alzheimer’s Association, and member of the board of directors of the Iberoamerican Alzheimer Federation.

She explained that the organizations and people who complete the workshop will receive a certification and a seal that identifies them as “Dementia Friends.”

“We believe that the certification seal will serve to distinguish the medical office, hospital, supermarket, or bank and will ultimately be an attraction to draw in an audience that is looking for spaces in which people and families living with dementia can feel welcomed and not stigmatized,” Gratacós explained.

“The goal of Dementia Friends and Triple-S, as well as the Triple-S Foundation, is to fight the stigma and lack of understanding toward people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, promote their social inclusion, prevent them from being marginalized even by their families and be alone,” said  Lydia Figueroa, community liaison for Triple-S and executive director of the Triple-S Foundation.

“So, Dementia Friends plans to address this situation by creating spaces for dialogue that contribute to forming friendly communities so that the person suffering from the disease has the quality of life to which they are entitled, and the family is supported in the process. We’re looking for the community’s health and social connection,” she said.

“We’re happy that the Municipality of Loíza is the first to take the step in making efforts so that most of the community entities, businesses and municipal personnel are Dementia Friends. We will facilitate the workshops for them,” said Figueroa.

It is estimated that there are more than 80,000 people living with dementia in Puerto Rico, of which approximately 60,000 are people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. According to the 2020 Census, Loíza has a total population of 2,693, of which 10.6% is 65 years or older. Of those, 154 are bedridden for different conditions, including Alzheimer’s.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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