WCDAN MissionWCDAN:  The West Central Dementia Awareness Network

Who are we?

Members of the West Central Dementia Awareness Network (WCDAN) live, work, and volunteer in or near Kandiyohi County, located in West Central Minnesota.  We come from a variety of towns and professions in the area, but we are all linked in some way by the subject of memory loss.  Some of us have family members who received a diagnosis of dementia, and others connect with people living with dementia during our work day or while out in the community.

In addition to our community member volunteers, some of our team members represent long-term care, specialized memory care, medical clinics, assisted living facilities, and non-medical home care as well as Lutheran Social Services, Minnesota River Agency on Aging, faith communities, Atwater Area Help for Seniors, adult day services, and counseling services.

What we do:  Our Mission

It is our desire to create community awareness of dementia along with connections to local resources.  We work together to develop communities that are knowledgeable about, and welcoming toward, people living with dementia.  We provide awareness education to aged care professionals, local businesses, faith organizations, caregivers, and community members.  We provide resources to people living with memory loss and their caregivers.  Our newest resource, the Forget-Me-Knot Memory Café, provides a safe, supportive environment for people with memory loss and their caregivers.

Dementia awareness increases local supports for people with memory loss and it strengthens the ability of communities, businesses, and families to support those living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.  Cultivating dementia-friendly, dementia-capable communities doesn’t duplicate what others already do well.  It fills the gap by expanding supports, coordinating efforts with partners, developing new partners, and linking people to information and resources.

At its very heart, it is reaching out to our neighbors to cultivate patience and understanding for those affected by memory loss.

How we started:  Our History

In 2009, a small group of Willmar area providers realized the need for community awareness, education, and support related to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in the Kandiyohi County area.  We took action, forming the West Central Dementia Awareness Network.  We hosted two community educational events to help support caregivers, the general public, and various professionals.  Participants learned about dementias which promoted better understanding when connecting with people living with memory loss as well as their family members.  We also shared local and regional resources.

And we have continued to host educational events to create community awareness since then.  As a result of our educational events and awareness efforts, WCDAN has become a model for other communities.

In 2011, WCDAN was one of four communities in Minnesota to pilot an ACT on Alzheimer’s Community Education Tool Kit which was developed with rural use in mind.  ACT on Alzheimer’s is a statewide, volunteer-driven collaboration preparing Minnesota for the personal, social, and budgetary impacts of Alzheimer’s disease.  Involvement with ACT brought new volunteers to WCDAN as they provided dementia education to community organizations.

Now, over thirty members strong, WCDAN is working to increase local supports for people with memory loss, and to strengthen the ability of communities, businesses, and families to support these citizens – our neighbors, our friends, and our family members.

How are we funded?

WCDAN is run by a committed group of volunteers who promote awareness through educational activities and events.  We have a small operating budget for supplies and materials.

In 2015, the Minnesota Legislature dedicated $1.5 million for competitive grants to community organizations statewide to promote a more supportive environment for people with dementia and resources for caregivers.  Twenty statewide, state-funded Dementia Grants were funded through the Minnesota Board on Aging.  WCDAN was awarded an 18-month grant through the Mid-Minnesota Development Commission as fiscal agent.  This grant has allowed WCDAN to expand and increase local supports for people with memory loss.

Partnering in our grant mission, Memoranda of Understanding were developed for the grant with Mid-Minnesota Development Commission; Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services; Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging; Alzheimer’s Association of Minnesota and North Dakota; ACT on Alzheimer’s; Lori La Bey / Alzheimer’s Speaks, LLC; and Montevideo Area Memory Loss Network.