Dementia Friendly Topsfield

Dementia Friendly Topsfield lgo





To help make Topsfield, Massachusetts a caring and supportive community for those residents living with dementia and their care-partners. 


To help make Topsfield, Massachusetts a dementia-friendly town by empowering businesses, organizations, municipal employees, and residents to advocate for and assist those community members living with dementia.  DFT will accomplish this mission by providing information sessions, trainings, recommendations, and follow-up as needed. 



The COA’s Dementia Friendly Topsfield (DFT) Task Force has compiled a guide to free resources for use by dementia care partners. 

The intention is to promote awareness around the many virtual resources available to care partners so that you can more easily structure your loved one’s daily activities.


Topsfield Council on Aging Hosts Virtual Programming

All of the Topsfield COA's programs are currently hosted online.  Monday through Thursday, a variety of stimulating and engaging activities are available to all who are interested.  Friends old and new enjoy gathering online. 

Simply email or call (978) 887-6866 to indicate your preferences.

Activities include:

  • Mondays at 10 AM:                Speaking of TED

  • Some Mondays at 11 AM:     Technology Tips

  • Some Mondays at 1 PM:       Monday Movies

  • Mondays at 3 PM:                  Restorative Yoga (with Sally)

  • Tuesdays at 10 AM:                Virtual Tours with Chrysa

  • Wednesdays at 10 AM;          Coffee & Conversation

  • Wednesdays at 11:15 AM:      Tai Chi (with Beth)

  • Thursdays at 1 PM:                 Thursday Afternoon Activities (educational & cultural)

  • Thursdays at 3 PM:                Dance Out Dementia (with Maggie)


Chatter Pack is a British Website that Provides Lists of Free Online Resources in Several Categories: 

  • Virtual tours and live webcams
  • Online learning
  • Geography, nature, & history
  • Music
  • Arts & culture
  • Literature online
  • Learn a skill or develop a current one 
  • Miscellaneous & entertainment
  • Anxiety, mental health, & loneliness
  • Prayer resources 

Since the list is comprehensive, task force members have shared their favorite sites...

Maggie:  Virtual tours and live webcams Houston Zoo Giraffes -

Joan:  Online learning Creative Courses -

Kathy:  Virtual tours and live webcams Explore Venice -

Kim:  Miscellaneous & Entertainment NASA’ s Complete Media Library -

Karen:  Miscellaneous & Entertainment Life Hub Story -

Paula:  Geography, nature, & history Project Noah -



Rest-Stop-Ranch provides wheelchair accessible gardens for enjoyment and therapeutic benefit, BY APPOINTMENT ONLY.

  • Memory Cafe program once a month, by Zoom
  • Support Group for Care-Partners of persons with FTD or Young Onset ALZ, twice a month, by Zoom
  • Individual Support (Spiritual Care) for Care-Partners, by appointment
  • Volunteer in the garden once a week (Horticultural Therapy)


Mary E. MacDonald, Owner & Founding Director, Rest.Stop.Ranch Programs

mobile:  (978) 887-4202


global: (caregiver wellness)
local: (accessible gardens)

address:  202 Haverhill Road, Topsfield, MA USA


Digital Solutions for People with Dementia

A lifesaver for those living with dementia and their care partners

There are many digital apps that have been created to help people living with dementia to live more independently for a longer period of time. For example, some apps provide information on the date and time, the weather, and daily reminders for things like medicine/pill schedules.  Other apps feature brain games, puzzles, and training. This informative link features a synopsis of 6 apps but is by no means an exhaustive list. 


How to Make Your Home More Dementia Friendly

This website designed by ageUK offers some very practical advice about home layouts and designs that can make daily life easier for those living with dementia and at the same time highlights some potential hazards that caregivers should take note of.  Five areas within the house – hallways and stairs; living room; kitchen; bedroom; and bathroom are explored with potential suggested changes in each area.  A “Top Tip” is given at the end of each section.  The agency underscores the importance of involving the person with dementia with decisions as much as possible and, citing the comfort of familiarity and routine, stresses that many things can remain the same. 


Tips from the Alzheimer's Association

According to the Alzheimer’s Association (, "Most likely, dementia does not increase risk for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus, just like dementia does not increase risk for flu. However, dementia-related behaviors, increased age and common health conditions that often accompany dementia may increase risk. For example, people with Alzheimer's disease and all other dementia may forget to wash their hands or take other recommended precautions to prevent illness. In addition, diseases like COVID-19 and the flu may worsen cognitive impairment due to dementia.”  For dementia caregivers at home, the Alzheimer’s Association ( offers these tips:

 "For people living with dementia, increased confusion is often the first symptom of any illness. If a person living with dementia shows rapidly increased confusion, contact your health care provider for advice.

  • People living with dementia may need extra and/or written reminders and support to remember important hygienic practices from one day to the next.
    • Consider placing signs in the bathroom and elsewhere to remind people with dementia to wash their hands with soap for 20 seconds. 
    • Demonstrate thorough hand-washing. 
    • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can be a quick alternative to hand-washing if the person with dementia cannot get to a sink or wash his/her hands easily.
  • Ask your pharmacist or doctor about filling prescriptions for a greater number of days to reduce trips to the pharmacy. 
  • Think ahead and make alternative plans for care management if the primary caregiver should become sick." 

New Resources from the Alzheimer’s Association of MA/NH

The Alzheimer's Association of MA/NH has created, a hub for all COVID-related resources and programs offered by the association. This site includes COVID-19 tip sheets, virtual programs (including specialized support groups and education programs), and social engagement offerings for people living with dementia, caregivers, and healthcare professionals, plus development events and public policy updates.

 Among the many offerings, you'll find the newest program, COVID Caring Conversations, which includes a series of topic-focused facilitated discussions for people living with dementia, caregivers, and healthcare professionals that address the challenges presented by the COVID-19 crisis. Our first CCC for Professionals, "Taking Care of Your Mental Health and Well-Being: Warning Signs of Trauma, Anxiety, and Depression", is scheduled for May 27th; please watch the site for additional dates and topics. CCC for Caregivers is a weekly program offered on Wednesdays at 11 am and 6 pm; several of these programs are offered in both English and Spanish. Additional details can be found at



Beginning in July 2020, DFT will be offering free, virtual Resource Sessions for dementia care partners.  Regular updates will appear on this page.

Ask questions about our Virtual Resource Guide or offer suggestions by completing our short Contact Form.


What is Dementia?   

Dementia is not a specific disease but rather a term that describes a group of symptoms.   These symptoms can include memory loss and changes in thinking, vision and motor skills that can make it difficult to perform simple daily activities such as bathing and eating.  Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia and accounts for 60-80 percent of all cases.  Other types of dementia include Vascular, Frontotemporal, and Dementia with Lewy Bodies.  In general, dementia symptoms will worsen over time.  While dementia cannot currently be cured, there are medications to help manage the symptoms.

Normal Aging vs. Alzheimer's Disease

While it is a normal part of aging for a person to experience changes with his/her memory, vision and motor skills as they grow older, the changes brought about by Dementia are more pervasive and disruptive to daily living.   Below are the ten early signs and symptoms of dementia:

1.  Memory loss that disrupts daily life.

2. Challenges in planning or solving problems.

3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.

4. Confusion with time or place.

5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.

6.  New problems with words in speaking or writing.

7.  Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.

8.  Decreased or poor judgment.

9.  Withdrawal from work or social activities.

10. Changes in mood and personality.

Source: 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s (


Dementia Friendly Topsfield (DFT) Highlights

1.  Increased Awareness of Dementia

a.  The DFT team began holding Dementia Friends Information Sessions in February of 2018.  Participants learned what dementia is, the tops ten signs and symptoms, ways in which people can better communicate with those living with dementia, and local resources available to provide advice and support services.  To date 658 participants have attended DFT’s Information Sessions – which represents 51% of all Information Sessions held to date across Massachusetts.

b.  Working with Masconomet administration, Maggie Chiffer, a DFT team member, high school student and Gold Award Girl Scout recipient, gained commitment to incorporate a segment on brain health and dementia risk reduction into Masconomet’s sophomore year health curriculum.  Each year roughly 250 sophomores will receive this information.

2.  Provided Customer Care Training to Organizations and Businesses

The Topsfield Police Department attended Dementia training from the Alzheimer’s Association (AA) as part of a state-wide effort in 2017.  The Topsfield Fire Department received First Responder Dementia training from the Alzheimer’s Association on April 2, 2018.  Employees and volunteers in Topsfield’s Town Hall, Town Library and municipal departments received training from the Alzheimer’s Association on May 30, 2018 to help them provide support and service to individuals living with Dementia.  

3.  Enhanced Availability and Awareness of Social and Support Services 

Throughout 2018, DFT has provided marketing support to increase awareness of existing dementia support services in Topsfield including:

a.  Rest-Stop-Ranch and its beautiful and therapeutic gardens on Rt 97 and the Topsfield Indoor Memory Café held at Town Hall in the winter (October through March) and at Rest-Stop-Ranch in the warmer months.  

b.  DFT Team member, Maggie Chiffer, introduced a new and fun service in February 2018 to help with dementia risk reduction – a tap and rhythmic-movement dance class called Dance Out Dementia: Train Your Brain with the Beat of Your Feet ( The class is designed for all levels and abilities with no experience needed.  Classes are held most Thursday afternoons between 3:00-3:45 P.M. in Public Hall at Town Hall. To date over 150 people have attended Maggie’s classes.

c.  A high school student, Jessica Bermudez, created a new service in June called Furry Friends ( to address a need raised by a caregiver at a Dementia Information Session who mentioned that people living with Dementia are not able to own a pet.  In response Jessica started a service where she coordinates the attendance of therapy dogs at various events sponsored by Topsfield Council on Aging, the Topsfield Memory Café, and the local YMCA.


Resources for Our Community

Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Hotline  ( or call 1-800-272-3900)

     -Free expert advice, referrals, emotional support and crisis assistance

     -Dementia-related education and training

     -Information about “Alz MeetUps” and other social programs

CJP SeniorDirect  ( or call 1-800-980-1982)

     -Free expert advice and information on MA resources for older adults and their families

800AgeInfo ( or call 1-800-243-4636)

     -Free information about MA resources for older adults and their families

Dementia Friendly Massachusetts (

     -Information to help MA communities become safer and more inclusive for people living with Dementia, their families and care providers 

Rest-Stop-Ranch  (

     -Wheelchair accessible gardens for enjoyment and therapeutic benefit

Dance Out Dementia (

     -All levels and abilities dance classes designed to reduce the risk of getting dementia through steps that require the brain to forge new neural pathways

Furry Friends (

     -A service providing loving, therapy dogs to events in Topsfield and surrounding towns


Dementia Friendly Team:

Joan Chiffer                                                     Chair & Topsfield COA Board Member

Paula Burke                                                     Executive Director -Topsfield COA

Maggie Chiffer                                                 Founder & Owner – Dance Out Dementia

Kathy Curran                                                   Member & Friends of the Topsfield COA Board Member

Kim Love                                                            Member & Topsfield COA Board Member

Mary MacDonald                                            Member, Founder of Rest-Stop-Ranch & Creative Director of Topsfield Indoor Memory Cafe

Karen Moniz                                                     Member & Caregiver Specializing in Dementia



Dementia Friendly Partners:

Dementia Friends Massachusetts

Dementia Friendly Massachusetts

Dementia Friendly America

Alzheimer's Association