I have been called a Pollyanna.  And not always in a kind, supportive way.  More in the, “Open your eyes, Amy!  There are mean people everywhere, bad things happen constantly and the world may be coming to an end at any time!  Stop with the perpetual optimism!” variety.  I won’t belabor my supersized optimism gene (see other columns for that) but I would like to discuss the current version of my Pollyanna-ness.  Did you know there is an actual adjective in the dictionary for this trait?  Pollyannaish!  How fun is that?  Even if the definition is “unreasonably or illogically optimistic.”  That part is sort of a downer.  I think Pollyannaish sounds like a nationality.  Or maybe an exotic side dish.  Possiblu a regional dialect.  But – surprise! – I digress.

As you might hopefully be aware, the CVC is working with many others to help create a Dementia Friendly Community.  There are many different angles and approaches we’re looking at but our mission is rock solid – “Building an informed community where those living with dementia and their care partners are respected and supported, continuing to live with meaning, value, and dignity.”  All roads lead to this goal.

I’ve been involved with most of the five initiatives but the four meetings I’ve actually been attending are Support Centers and Navigators, Building a Healthcare Continuum, Dementia Friendly Spaces and Dementia Friends.  There is also the Caregiver Support and Respite initiative that’s doing some amazing work.

In the Healthcare Continuum group, we’ve been grappling with the issue of early diagnosis and the pros and cons of it.  On the one hand, early diagnosis of dementia allows the person and their family to begin preparing for the future including advanced healthcare directives and wills as well as finding sources of support and services.  In addition, once the type of dementia is identified, there may be treatments available to make significant differences in day-to-day living and functioning for those living with dementia.  Those who avoid a diagnosis do so for a variety of reasons, including that many consider a dementia diagnosis a death sentence which may bring on deep depression and anxiety.

Here’s where the Pollyannaish gene comes in for me.  In no way could or would I ever minimize the negative impact a dementia diagnosis brings with it.  But what if you received this diagnosis for you or your wife, husband, father, mother, etc. and after you recovered from the initial shock, you immediately felt reassured.  You knew without a doubt that your community – whether it’s Sheridan, Dayton, Story, Arvada, Wyarno, pick a place in Sheridan County – was standing at the ready to embrace you and support you in every way as you live with dementia.  Everything from helping you find the supports you need to stay in your home to checking in with you as a friend to make sure your day is going well.  Need a ride to the Senior Center?  Handled. Overwhelmed by the endless stress of caring for your wife of 55 years?  We’re here.

It’s not beyond possibility and given the energy and dedication of the members of these five initiatives (plus all those who are watching our progress and are ready to jump in) I know it’s going to happen.  Because we are Sheridan County.  It’s what we do.  I defy the cranky, negative nature of the definition for Pollyannaish.  I say the Sheridan County definition for that word is, “If you believe it, you will achieve it.”  You can call us Polly for short.