Christian Horizons is proud to announce that it is joining the global movement to create dementia friendly communities with a special project being kicked off July 1. For the month of July, families and residents of our communities will be invited to take an on-line course to become a Dementia Friend.

Originally started in England, the Dementia Friends USA program consists of a series of free, online videos that help viewers learn about what it is like to live with Alzheimer’s disease and then to turn that understanding into action steps. For example, a Dementia Friend learns how to make a friendly visit and support a friend or neighbor with dementia.

When the course is completed, the participant can print his or her own certificate of accomplishment and earn the title, “Dementia Friend.” Currently there are almost 100,000 people in the US who are Dementia Friends and many more internationally.

As the numbers of people living with dementia grow, many communities are looking to become more dementia friendly. This involves training first responders, clergy, postal workers, restaurant workers and others in the community to keep a “watchful eye” on elders in the community who may be struggling with their thinking and memory.

Dementia Friendly communities also involve rethinking how towns and cities can support caregiving families. For example, Jim’s Steak and Spaghetti restaurant in Huntington, West Virginia opens a night just for people with dementia and their family members. This allows families to enjoy a special night out, without having to navigate a crowded room.

Christian Horizons has developed an innovative, life-affirming, memory care program called Pathway Memory Support. In addition, we are supporting the dementia friendly community movement by launching our own effort to become a Dementia Friendly Ministry, offering education to local faith communities and education and outreach on dementia care to other faith-based non-profits.

Anyone, of any age, can become a Dementia Friend. For more information or to take the class, see the website for Dementia Friends USA at Dementia Friends USA | or visit your local Christian Horizon community to join us in our Dementia Friends campaign.

David Troxel, MPH, co-author of The Best Friends Approach to Dementia Care and Consultant to Christian Horizons Pathway Memory Support Program.