Dementia Friendly Sun Lakes Action Team Meets for the First Time

In September of 2022, when Sun Lakes was officially designated as a Dementia Friendly Community, co-chairs Sheryl Keeme of Neighbors Who Care and Elaine Poker-Yount of East Valley Memory Café began looking for like-minded individuals to join the Dementia Friendly Sun Lakes (DFSL) Action Team. Over the last year, those individuals stepped up, and on Aug. 16 the first meeting was held.

In attendance were Kris Karlson, Paige Fairbanks-Gunn, Elaine Poker-Yount, Sheryl Keeme, Aubrey Moore, Jessica Major, Stephen Phair, Kerrie Gideon, Emma Martinez, Rose Saunders, Polly Smith, and Terri O’Herron.

Discussion revolved around the many resources families living with dementia have access to in Sun Lakes. These resources were detailed by Sheryl, Polly, Rose, and Elaine to include Area Agency on Aging resources for care at The Perfect Place, respite from Neighbors Who Care, the Memory Café, Sun Lakes United Methodist Church, and others.

Discussion turned to the goal of organizing and listing businesses, organizations, offices, etc., that would benefit from receiving the info class for employees. Polly mentioned a lanyard or some identifier be established so businesses are recognized for learning more about DFSL and dementia, and also for individuals living with dementia so they are recognized in a dignified and understated way. Jessica mentioned a different organization called Dementia Friendly America that offers a Dementia Friendly America at Work training that is meant for educating businesses and employees. She will share this information and learning tools.

The busy fall Open Houses scheduled throughout Sun Lakes were mentioned and dates discussed so that the DFSL Action Team may have information tables to educate the community more on our Action Team’s activities, as well as DFSL. The email [email protected] was supplied as the official email.

Dementia Friendly Information classes have been offered to the community free of charge. The Perfect Place at Oakwood Creative Care, the Memory Café housed at Sun Lakes United Methodist Church, and Neighbors Who Care, known as Sun Lakes Coalition of Care, set out to request the Dementia Friendly America initiative formally recognize Sun Lakes as a Dementia Friendly Community. The goal is to share information that helps families living with a diagnosis of dementia understand the disease and learn best practices of how to continue to enjoy life and day-to-day interactions with a loved one living with the disease. Every month, the Dementia Friendly classes were attended by couples living with a diagnosis, golf friends, dinner friends, neighbors, and professionals serving the dementia community. These classes are helpful with common sense and proven techniques on communication, managing difficult behaviors, and learning a new way to approach friends and loved ones for the best results.

“Neighbors Who Care and the Coalition of Care team is committed to doing all we can to ensure that all our residents, regardless of dementia-related challenges, can access the resources they need in order to help create the life they choose and experience a sense of belonging, purpose, and well-being,” said Sheryl Keeme, executive director.

The Dementia Friendly Sun Lakes initiative aims to bring community members together to support the increasing number of individuals and households affected by dementia, grow awareness about the signs and symptoms of dementia, and make Sun Lakes more accessible and inclusive so that those living with dementia and their care partners can remain in the community, feeling welcomed and valued.

Volunteers are needed for the swiftly growing Memory Café housed at Sun Lakes United Methodist Church each Monday from 9:30 to 11 a.m.

For more information on the Memory Café or on Dementia Friendly Sun Lakes, how to get involved, or to sign up for an upcoming Dementia Friendly Info class, please contact Sheryl Keeme, memory co-chair, at 480-895-7133, Ext. 170, or email Elaine Poker-Yount at [email protected].