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Wisconsin Dells Walgreens dementia friendly store

The staff at the Walgreens store in Wisconsin Dells recently cut a purple ribbon to signify their designation as a “dementia friendly” business.

Wisconsin Dells’ Walgreens store is now “dementia-friendly,” thanks to a training program recently provided to the store’s staff by the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin (ADAW).

A “dementia-friendly” business is defined as one “whose staff has been trained in how best to serve its customers who have dementia.”

The staff at the Walgreens in the Lower Dells underwent training in late 2015 and earlier this month received the “dementia friendly” designation with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the store. All of Columbia County’s Walgreens and many of the company’s stores in the south-central stores in the region have completed the training, according to ADAW outreach specialist Janet Wiegel.

As part of the training, each member of the Walgreens staff in the Dells was provided with a “Dementia Friendly Quick Reference Guide” with tips on how to help customers who might be affected by dementia.

Store manager Dana Weiland and assistant store manager Ciera Priest both say that the training has made a huge difference in working with customers who might have dementia.

“It’s amazing how many people probably already have the start of it and you don’t realize it,” Weiland said of customers she now realizes, after the training, may have dementia. “I’ve noticed I’ve had to step back and think about the training and talk a little bit slower, and say the questions more than once so that they get what I’m trying to say, and make them feel comfortable in the situation –so they’re comfortable talking to me.”

“It shed light on some stuff that we kind of realized about people who we work with every day, but that we just kind of shrugged it off with ‘they just forgot,’” Priest said.

Contrary to what may be the popular connotation, the word “dementia” as a medical term describes “a set of symptoms causing a decline in cognitive function severe enough to affect daily living,” according to the ADAW.

More than 70 percent of those with dementia still live at home, and many without assistance. That means someone next to you in line at Walgreens — or any other store, for that matter — might have some of the symptoms of dementia.

Those symptoms include short-term memory loss, disorientation to time and place, difficulty with problem-solving and abstract thinking and difficulty with verbal or written communication.

“Many diseases and disorders can cause dementia,” indicates the ADAW on its website.

“It’s really difficult for them to go into places, even places that are very familiar, because they can be overwhelming and confusing to their senses when they are having issues with dementia,” Wiegel said.

“There are five million people in the U.S. currently diagnosed with dementia” and more than 120,000 of those diagnosed in Wisconsin, Wiegel said. “There’s probably at least half again out there that are undiagnosed,” she said. “That’s why we’re trying to make the communities more aware and more able to adapt for those individuals.”

For more information about how to become “dementia friendly,” either for yourself or your place of business, contact Wiegel at 608-742-9055 or the ADAW at 1-888-308-6251.