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Dementia Friendly

Alzheimer's and Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin outreach specialist Janet Wiegel addresses the crowd Thursday afternoon at a ribbon cutting for 12 businesses in front of City Hall in Portage. Joining Wiegel, from left, are ADAW Executive Director Paul Rusk; state Rep. Dave Considine, D-Baraboo; and state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton.

Those who attended Thursday’s ribbon cutting ceremony for dementia-friendly Portage businesses made it very clear they didn’t want only to be part of the program.

They wanted to lead the way.

That commitment showed in the form of about 100 city leaders and community members at Portage’s city hall who supported the Dementia Friendly Community initiative, which since January has seen 12 area businesses trained in the many factors involved with the disease.

The city of Portage partnered with the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin to create a task force that in one year would train at least 25 area businesses — a goal Janet Wiegel said isn’t too far off.

“I don’t think that’s going to be a problem at all,” said Wiegel, ADAW outreach specialist for Columbia and Sauk counties. “People are really coming out of the woodwork asking to be trained.”

Wiegel noted everyone who was invited to Thursday’s ceremony showed up — a great sign for the DFC initiative’s future in the area. Among several city and county leaders who attended the event were state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, and Rep. Dave Considine, D-Baraboo.

“Everybody stepped out for this,” Wiegel said. “This is an amazing community, and I can say that with all my heart.”

Five area businesses are scheduled for training in the coming months with several more expected to join them by the end of the year, Wiegel said. Ribbon cuttings for those businesses will be held individually upon the completion of training, and ADAW will hold two more open houses in Portage to share information. The next open house will be Oct. 10 at the Portage police station, and another will be held in November at a date and location to be determined.

How to approach a disease expected to triple in the U.S. over the next 35 years certainly isn’t easy. The only way to do it, Mayor Bill Tierney said, is to keep spreading the word.

“We brought in community members, civic organizations, corporations, businesses, the county — a wide variety,” Tierney said. “It’s catching on.”

Portage is a community that “sees the need” for dementia awareness, said Tierney, who helped start the Portage Memory Café at the Portage Public Library about three years ago. The memory café, held from 1 to 3 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month, provides about 45 minutes of conversations and programs that, ultimately, paved the path for the DFC initiative in Portage.

“We learned about DFC and thought, ‘Hey, why can’t we do that in Portage?’” Tierney said. “I thought, if we’re going to do this Portage, we have to lead the way.”

The Portage Police Department was among the first in the area to compete DFC training, in January asking Wiegel if she could join the department for its in-service training, which included the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.

That decision turned into a huge success that saw more than 100 sworn officers trained by Wiegel, said Police Chief Ken Manthey.

“This will give the officers more insight and understanding when they go on these calls or when they’re approached by somebody who has Alzheimer’s or dementia,” Manthey said. “To treat them with compassion and understanding, and (to know) the importance of finding a loved one right away — someone who can communicate with them and can help explain to us what their needs are so we can do a better job of helping them.”

Businesses and organizations recognized Thursday were: the police department; the sheriff’s office; Blau Chiropractic; Columbia County ADRC; Divine Savior EMTs; Sharing Supper; Wilz Drug; Portage Area Chamber of Commerce; Portage Kiwanis; Portage Rotary and Walgreens.

For more information about DFC, contact Wiegel at 608-742-9055.