For people dealing with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, just having a friendly, comfortable place to visit can make a world of difference.

The Oregon Public Library is now one of these friendly places for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia, as library staff were trained earlier this month to be aware of the signs of the diseases and to better serve people with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Following the training, the library was certified as “dementia friendly” by the Aging and Disability Resources Center of Dane County.

Library director Nikki Busch said the training, which took place on July 5 with most staff members, was “well worth it.”

“We had plenty of time for questions and they shared further resources we can use ourselves, or could refer others to as well,” she said.

During the session, the trainer went around the library to see how the surroundings and employees’ reactions might affect someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Busch said she was happy to find out the library was already doing many of the things the trainer later suggested.

“Here, when you walk in, it’s clearly defined where you go for help; there’s a help desk right there,” she said. “But that can be a big challenge for someone experiencing dementia. We’re also very service-oriented, we’ll greet you as you walk in, and that helps people to feel welcome.”

Busch said other tips the staff received are things they are trained to do, anyway, like smiling, listening, covering one topic at a time, speaking clearly and maintaining eye contact.

“They really are important for people who are experiencing a big challenge,” she said.

Busch said she’s pleased that the library now has the designation – along with a new logo on its window to let people know. She said it’s important for all businesses and establishments to also get the training, and the designation.

“Dementia affects far more people than we realize,” Busch said. “Sometimes people only think of Alzheimer’s, but there are lots of conditions that may lead to (dementia), whether it’s temporary or more long-term. We’re really grateful this was available at no charge. It doesn’t take a lot of time, and the rewards are great, for the establishment and the community.”

Get involved

Those interested in joining the initiative can sign up for a free presentation with members of the coalition. For information, contact Oregon Area Senior Center director Alison Koelsch at akoelsch@vil.oregon.wi.us.

Email Unified Newspaper Group reporter Scott De Laruelle at scott.delaruelle@wcinet.com.