Organization hopes to make cities dementia-friendly

Local News

EFFINGHAM, Ill. (WCIA) — Every minute someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s, just one of many types of dementia.

One organization is training customer service representatives to be able to tell the signs the disease.

Former Effingham mayor Jeff Bloemker is a commercial loan officer at the Bank of Hillsboro, and he said he knows how tough banking can be.

“Banking is an intimidating activity for all of us, and we work really hard to mitigate that type of anxiety for all of our customers,” he explained.

He said he took it a step further by going through training to see warning signs of dementia.

“Our goal is to just educate people, so they’re not afraid of helping somebody with dementia,” Shannon Nosbisch, co-founder of Effingham Area Alzheimer’s Awareness.

She did that training. She said 70% – 90% of people with dementia live in their own homes, so it’s important for community members to recognize the signs.

“They want to be able to go into businesses that understand what dementia is and how it works and have employees that understand,” she explained.

She was her mother-in-law’s caregiver when she was diagnosed nearly 20 years ago, so she said she knows how difficult it can be.

“There is a big need, because it is such a tough job to do,” she said.

Statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association show 60% of caregivers end up with depression.

It starts with changes to the bank itself: signage, lighting and some things you might not think about.

It could be something as simple as a rug. That might not seem like that big of a deal, but for someone with dementia, it could look like a hole in the floor, and they might not even want to walk through the door.

But once they do, Nosbisch said, it’s all about communication.

“Basically it’s patience,” she explained. “You have to be calm. You have to be reassuring. Reassure them that you will figure out what you want done, and limit distractions. You want to ask one question at a time. Would you like to deposit your check?”

And she said listening is key. Sometimes the bank teller might need to wait for an answer as long as 15 seconds, but bank employees said it’s worth it to take the extra time.

“The more we talk about it, and the more we get it out in front, there’s a good chance many of us are gonna have this issue, the better off we are,” Bloemker said.

They said they want to make sure our most vulnerable are the most comfortable.

Effingham Area Alzheimer’s Awareness has had training sessions at a number of different banks, libraries and stores. 

For more information, click here, contact Shannon Nosbisch or call (217) 663 – 0010.

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