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Group receives grant to support dementia-friendly community

The Brainerd/Baxter action team of the Lakes Area Memory Awareness Advocates received a grant through ACT on Alzheimer's to help implement priorities specific to creating a dementia-friendly community.

Brainerd/Baxter is one of 34 action communities throughout the state working to prepare Minnesota for the growing number of people with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. The Alzheimer's Association estimates there are 89,000 Minnesotans age 65 and older with the disease and thousands more with other dementias. The disease also touches nearly 250,000 family members and friends who are caregivers.

"We are excited that what we heard and what we learned from our community is allowing us to make a difference in Brainerd lakes area," said Amanda Mithun, action team leader, in a news release. "This grant will help us accomplish our priority of increasing access to educational opportunities about dementia and increasing support to caregivers of those with dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Supporting our community members with Alzheimer's and their caregivers will do tremendous good for the community as a whole."

"These community action teams thrive on passion and commitment," said Michelle Barclay, executive co-lead for ACT on Alzheimer's, in a news release. "They worked hard to complete the convene, assess, and analyze phases of our dementia-capable community toolkit process and are now in Phase 4 (ACT Together), ready to implement action priorities and achieve their vision of a dementia-friendly community."

ACT on Alzheimer's is a volunteer-driven, statewide collaboration preparing Minnesota for the personal, social and budgetary impacts of Alzheimer's. Working with communities striving to become dementia-friendly is one of ACT's key strategies.

"As the population of Minnesota ages, it's important to build awareness of dementia and Alzheimer's," said Barclay. "Some of the most exciting practices will emerge from the work happening in communities. Having a dementia-friendly community means that care partners are supported and people with Alzheimer's can stay out of residential care settings longer. That helps everyone - families and taxpayers who pay for institutional care, employers who have workers trying to balance work and caregiving demands, and most importantly, the people living with dementia."

In addition to Brainerd/Baxter, other geographic-based communities receiving grants for their action plans include: Becker, Bemidji, Cloquet, Detroit Lakes, east Iron Range (cities of Aurora, Biwabik and Hoyt Lakes), Edina, Forest Lake, Harmony, International Falls, Mankato and North Mankato, Marshall, Mille Lacs (Onamia and Isle school districts), North Branch, Northfield, Paynesville area, Redwood Falls, Roseville, Sauk Rapids, St. Paul northeast neighborhoods, Stillwater area, and Willmar.

Communities of shared ethnic and cultural interests receiving grants include: Centro, reaching Twin Cities Latino populations; NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center/Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller, reaching North Minneapolis populations; the Minnesota Council of Churches and a St. Paul African-American faith community.

Brainerd/Baxter's grant is funded through Blue Plus (an HMO affiliate of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota), the Medica Foundation and Greater Twin Cities United Way and is administered by the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging.