UIndy holds Dementia Friends event to educate students

Dementia Friends Indiana is an organization which allows people interested in learning about dementia and its signs to focus on making a positive impact on people living with dementia. Along with this, the organization hopes to increase awareness and support of dementia, while also reducing the stigma associated with the disease. On Oct. 17, the University of Indianapolis held two informational meetings administered by the Central Indiana Council on Aging Inc. 

CICOA is an agency that serves Central Indiana, including Marion County and the seven surrounding counties, for assistance with older adults, caregivers and even people with disabilities, according to CICOA Community Programs Coordinator Mindi Winnie. These seven surrounding counties include Boone, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Johnson, Morgan and Shelby, according to CICOA.org. CICOA provides home and community services, which include Dementia Friends Indiana, along with many others, according to Winnie. 

“We also have a home delivery meal program and other congregate meal sites throughout our eight counties,” Winnie said. “We offer transportation services to older adults, we provide case management services, caregiver support, home modifications, you name it and we provide it.”

At the meeting, Winnie shared her personal experiences regarding dementia. Those experiences, she said, led her to sharing the information with college students, especially because of the impact college students can make on others they encounter.

“We live in a time of social movements,” Winnie said. “There’s so many different causes that people are out there voicing, what their passionate about and fighting for things, and so I feel so hopeful about the younger generation because, again, just their willingness to learn and to be able to speak up.”

According to Winnie, the opportunity to present information about dementia at colleges is not generally offered to CICOA, so this event was unique for the organization. Senior mathematics major Courtney Nelson said the event was beneficial and allowed her to gather a better grasp of what dementia truly is. 

“I think it’s important for everyone to understand what this disease is and how it affects people because, like we discussed in the event, everyone in their lifetime will encounter it at some point, whether it’s [with] a loved one or… a stranger,” Nelson said. “They will come across it so it’s important to understand it.”

While CICOA does not provide any kind of cognitive testing or direct care themselves, they do act as an outreach for people looking for help in these kind of situations, according to Winnie. CICOA is more involved with turning people to the right resources and acting as a middle ground between the problem and where to find help. 

“We’re witnessing this with our own families or we’ve been through it before,” Winnie said. “So I think that there’s a real interest in young people to learn more because they’re seeing this with their families, to just feel better prepared and to be able to offer support.”