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.
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.
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 (danceoutdementia.com). 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 (furry-friends.net) 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 (www.alz.org 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-980-1982)
-Free expert advice and information on MA resources for older adults and their families
800AgeInfo (www.ageinfo.com or call 1-800-243-4636)
-Free information about MA resources for older adults and their families
Dementia Friendly Massachusetts (www.dfmassachusetts.org)
-Information to help MA communities become safer and more inclusive for people living with Dementia, their families and care providers
-Wheelchair accessible gardens for enjoyment and therapeutic benefit
Dance Out Dementia (http://danceoutdementia.com)
-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 (https://www.furry-friends.net/)
-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: