How sharing information can make a big difference in nearly half a million lives

It can be a confusing disease to describe, yet Arizona is one of the fasted growing states when it comes to those diagnosed with dementia.

Many times, you hear the words dementia and Alzheimer’s interchanged. However, dementia is not a specific disease. It’s an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks.  Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia and accounts for 60 to 80% of cases. Less common types of dementia include Lewy Body, Frontotemporal and Vascular. 

This is where friendship comes in. As more and more people are diagnosed and caregivers grapple with caring for their loved ones, there is an increased movement for people and communities to become ‘Dementia Friendly.’ All it takes is sharing information.

“Early signs and symptoms of the disease can cause frustration and fear. There are changes in mood and personality for those experiencing dementia. It’s frightening for them and for the people trying to help,” said Barbara Mason, executive director for Sun Health At Home and the Memory Care Navigator program. “But with the right information someone with dementia can get the best out of their life. The key is for those with the disease and those caring for a loved one not to feel isolated.”

That is why Sun Health is getting the word out about its Dementia Friends Training program. The hour-long course provides information about the disease and how to share information among family, friends and small groups within the community. Sun Health is able to provide the information and class at no charge thanks to generous support of the Sun Health Foundation.

“Every year we learn more about the disease,” Barbara adds. “Dementia Friends is about turning understanding into action. Helping our community understand and change how we talk about dementia benefits all of us.”

Barbara is also proud of the fact that last year the City of Surprise joined Tempe in becoming Arizona’s second Dementia Friendly City. Sun Health, Benevilla and the Banner Sun Health Research Institute worked alongside the City of Surprise in that effort. Barbara says cities embracing education and sharing information about the disease is key for patients and caregivers as the numbers in Arizona continue to grow.

If you know of someone impacted by memory loss and would like to learn more, you’re encouraged to join Sun Health’s next Dementia Friends Training on Tuesday, May 19, 2020 from 10 to 11 a.m. The link to join can be found at by clicking the banner at the top of the page.