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Midwest Matters August 11th, 2020
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Dementia and Alzheimer’s Services @ Your Library

Posted by on July 17th, 2018 Posted in: Outreach


On May 4, 2018, I was honored to lead a session entitled “Dementia and Alzheimer’s Services @ Your Library” for approximately 40 frontline library staff members attending the annual Reaching Forward Conference sponsored by the Illinois Library Association.  In addition to demonstrating how NLM databases such as Medline Plus can provide much needed medical information for those living with dementia and their care partners, I was also able to share some of the knowledge about dementia that I learned during the decade that I cared for my late husband who had been diagnosed with a young onset dementia at age 56.  As a member of the leadership team for the Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias Interest Group (IGARD) of the American Library Association, I am also aware of many concrete examples of programs and services provided by libraries across the country directly to those living with the disease, as well as to their caregivers.   I was able to share information about programs such as:

  • the Tales & Travel Memories book and reading program which the Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin, IL brings to diagnosed persons living in over a dozen local memory care facilities,
  • the Library Memory Project of the Bridges Library System, Waukesha, WI that coordinates monthly memory cafes (informal social gatherings) shared among eight WI libraries,
  • thematic circulating kits such as those provided by the St. Charles (IL) Public Library that consist of books, CD’s and DVD’s that can stimulate memories and conversation.

Library support staff often work directly with the public, which increasingly includes those living with dementia and their caregivers.  Audience members indicated that they would appreciate more training in how to communicate and interact with this population, especially as the number of people affected by dementia is expected to grow exponentially in the future.

Although libraries are beginning to become aware of the proactive role they can play in their communities to improve the quality of life for those living with dementia, much more can be done.  I told this attentive and focused audience about a nationwide initiative called Dementia Friendly America that seeks to bring together all aspects of a community, including libraries, in an effort to increase awareness of, and provide services for, those living with dementia.  Libraries can help to truly transform the lives of those living with dementia in their communities.  I hope this discussion is just beginning…

–Guest post by Mary Beth Riedner

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This project has been funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, under Grant Number 1UG4LM012346 with The University of Iowa.

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