‘Events like this give us hope’: La Crosse ADRC highlighting Dementia Friendly Week

La Crosse dementia experts connect families to resources and friendships

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Dementia puts a lot of pressure on families. One out of every 10 people 65 and older suffers from dementia. This week is Dementia Friendly Week in La Crosse County. Tuesday, officials with the Aging Resource and Disability Center hosted an event at Myrick Park to connect these people to healthy resources.

Myrick Park was the scene for some much-needed conversation.

“I think it’s good,” said Karen Wilson, a participant in the event.

Dementia care specialist Kelsey Flock and her team designed activities to get older residents active in mind and body.

“This is the memory café, something that didn’t exist last year, like a lot of other things in 2020,” Flock said. “We’re coming back in a new out-and-about fashion,” Flock said.

Dementia affects more than 2,000 people in the county. There is no cure. This reality doesn’t prevent Larry Wilson and his wife, Karen, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, from enjoying a moment at the park.

“The beautiful weather and the people to talk to,” Larry said.

Flock’s experience goes far beyond a college degree. For her, dementia is personal.

“It’s always difficult when it’s in your own family. Especially being a professional,” said Flock, who has two grandmothers with dementia. “I have all the expertise and know-how, but I’m also the granddaughter and the family member.”

Karen and Larry’s family had experienced this before Karen’s diagnosis.

“I went through it with my mother,” Karen said. “So, I knew what was coming.”

Flock is spreading the word about the people behind the statistics.

“Most of them are more normal than I am,” Larry Wilson said.

It helps more families find the help they need and realize, they are far from alone.

“Events like this give us hope,” Larry said.

The Wilsons were not the only ones enjoying themselves Tuesday.

“It was more than I expected,” Holmen resident Sue Anne Ross said. “It was great.”

Dementia may not affect most people now, but Flock said the risk increases as people age.

“Age is the No.1 risk factor. It’s also the risk factor we can’t control, so we’re all at risk,” Flock said.

Tuesday’s activities are a community conversation these people have waited for.

“We miss our people,” Ross said.

People who are often misunderstood, but not forgotten by those who love them.

“It’s like a little family,” Flock said.

The dementia population is expected to double by 2040 in La Crosse County. ADRC staff said these events help prevent social isolation.  There are more events throughout the week.