Outer Banks Dementia Friendly Coalition Promotes Dignity, Connection

Outer Banks Dementia Friendly Coalition Executive Director Dianne Denny with a sample Memory Book, an art project created by clients and volunteers to celebrate the “moments of joy” realized during Caregivers’ Day Out events. (photo by Corinne Saunders, The Outer Banks Voice)


Imagine going out for a walk and becoming completely lost in your own neighborhood. Imagine caring for a spouse who no longer recognizes you. Some adults in our community live with this kind of fear, grief, and frustration every day. They are living with dementia.

The Outer Banks Dementia Friendly Coalition gathered with business leaders and community members on June 21 to recognize “The Longest Day” and to raise awareness about their programs supporting people living with dementia and their care partners. “The Longest Day” is an annual summer solstice event started by the Alzheimer’s Association to “fight the darkness of Alzheimer’s.” A Community Foundation grant supported the Coalition’s outreach event, which was held at Jennette’s Pier in a collaboration with the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce.

The Dementia Friendly Coalition was formed after the 2012-2013 Dare County Community Health Needs Assessment, which pointed to our county’s growing, higher-than-average aging population. Age is the greatest risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia, and the report spelled out more concerns facing our community because of the stark implications of this disease, including the enormous burden of care.

“One of the hardest things for caregivers is to ask for help,” said Coalition Executive Director Dianne Denny. “Everybody needs a break and time to recharge. We are inviting caregivers to let us be their listening ear and see how we can help.”

One of the Coalition’s stated goals is to “reduce the stigma of dementia so that everyone is included in our community and has a purpose.” They do this through dementia-friendly education for area business and restaurant staff, and by offering weekly “Caregivers Day Out” events in Kill Devil Hills and Manteo. The group plans to expand services to Hatteras Island in the future.