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Dementia Friendly Fairfax

Get To Know Dementia Friendly Fairfax!

Have you heard of Dementia Friendly Fairfax? An initiative that begun in 2019, Dementia Friendly Fairfax brings awareness and support for those living with dementia and their care partners in Fairfax County, Virginia.

Today we’re getting to know Allegra Joffe, Caregiver Specialist, Fairfax Area Agency on Aging, and Diane Watson, Mount Vernon Rep on the Fairfax Area Commission on Aging & Long Term Care Coordinating Council (LTCCC) Member contact person for the Spring Hill Community Village in Lorton, VA. They are two of Dementia Friendly Fairfax’s action team members. Robin McGlothin from Insight Memory Care Center gets the conversation going!

Robin: Let’s start at the beginning! Allegra, how did you get involved with Dementia Friendly Fairfax?

Allegra: In 2019, I attended a Dementia Friends Information Session at Insight Memory Care Center where I became a Dementia Friend! Within the same year, I went through the training to become a volunteer Dementia Friends VA Champion trainer, as I wanted to continue the mission of making Virginia Dementia Friendly. I partnered with the Dementia Friendly Fairfax Action team to co-host information sessions on a regular basis for the community with my co-champion Diane Watson, who serves on the Fairfax Area Commission on Aging & LTCCC. I started working with Fairfax Area Agency on Aging as a Caregiver Specialist last May, and I continue my work with Dementia Friendly Fairfax now as county staff member.

Robin: What about you, Diane?

Diane: I first became aware of the Dementia Friendly Initiative through presentations to the Fairfax Commission on Aging and also the 50+ Ambassador group. I became a Dementia Friend at those presentations and then went on to attain some further education to become a Dementia Champion so I could pass on the information that I learned. Living in an active 55+ community, makes it likely that someone in our community may develop Dementia, considering the number of people in America aging into the 65+ demographics as a whole. So knowing this bit of information, we want to know the best way to interact with those living amongst us with a dementia diagnosis.

Robin: It’s so interesting to learn how people find out about Dementia Friendly Fairfax. We started in July 2019 right before the pandemic, so many people don’t know we exist yet. But as you bring up, Diane, it’s so important to know how to interact when you encounter someone with dementia.

Diane: As many people as possible should become Dementia Friends, because there will be interactions in all areas of our lives as we interact when we go about our daily business, be it grocery shopping or any retail store, riding on public transportation or walking casually along the streets, going into restaurants, banks or Houses of Worship. I believe the baseline is to get as many people in neighborhoods informed so that both the person with the dementia diagnosis and caregivers - like their family, friends, and neighbors - can feel and be supported as safely possible.

Allegra: I agree. The community at large should become a Dementia Friend, including kids, teens, adults, older adults, private businesses, and public sectors. It is very likely you know someone or will encounter someone who is living with dementia in your community or possibly even within your family. You can meet someone at the bank, in the faith community, grocery store, library, restaurant and your neighborhood.

Robin: Especially now that we can all get out more!

Allegra: Exactly! Research shows that those living with dementia and their caregivers are isolated due to the stigma surrounding dementia. That is why it so important to understand dementia and how to help individuals stay engaged in our community and feel valued.

Robin: Such an important point. Care partners face many challenges, and when caring for a loved one with dementia, community support is more important than ever.

Allegra: Dementia affects each person differently. Friends, family, and neighbors may not understand how to relate, communicate, or support someone living with dementia or their caregiver. Many caregivers may lose friends, family, and neighbors support due to lack of understanding, and they can become isolated and alone during their caregiver journey.

Diane: Caregivers need to recognize that they need support and care as much, if not more at times than those with the dementia diagnosis. They need to have a support system that stays connected with them whether via phone, technology or in-person so they don't feel isolated and lost. No one person can be tasked alone to care for someone who has a diagnosis of dementia.

Robin: It’s so easy to neglect your own needs when caregiving. How can we support caregivers?

Diane: Caregivers need to be able to get a breather from caring with some of the simple supports mentioned in the informational sessions - sharing a meal with others in person or having a meal prepared so they can enjoy it without having to expend effort and energy to make it, have someone stay with the loved one so the caregiver can leave the house for personal time specifically for themselves, like going to the hairdresser, getting a manicure, or going to the gym. Caregivers may find that doing errands on their own, something that they might not have looked forward to doing previously now makes them feel like they are accomplishing something needing to be done with less stress when doing so alone!

Allegra: People living with dementia and their caregivers deserve to be a part of our community and be treated with dignity and respect. You can be a part of the change by becoming a Dementia Friend and helping support those living with dementia and their caregivers as they live a healthy, active, fulfilling life with loving relationships and connections.

Diane: We can become more Dementia Friendly by ensuring that the people in Fairfax County who may attain a dementia diagnosis are still able to live happy, fruitful and productive lives with those around them. Whether they are sharing a home with family and/or caregivers or living close by on the same street or neighborhood, other people should have a better understanding on how they can communicate and interact with someone with dementia and better understand the reality of the person living with dementia with the information/education received during the Information sessions.

Robin: And how does Fairfax County work with Dementia Friendly Fairfax to make this happen?

Allegra: Fairfax Area Agency on Aging is a part of the Dementia Friendly Fairfax action team that is made up of community members and organizations who support the Dementia Friends mission. We offer Dementia Friends Information sessions on a regular basis for the community. Fairfax County residents can become more dementia friendly by attending one of those sessions, where people can learn what dementia is, how to communicate with someone living with dementia, and choose an action to support those living with dementia and their caregivers.

Diane: The County might also recognize those sectors of the community like First Responders and businesses like retail stores and restaurants who complete Dementia Friendly training and make it a point that their staff learn how they can interact, communicate and assist those individuals living with a diagnosis of Dementia so they can have a positive experience - wherever they might be.  

Allegra: Yes - everyone in our community counts. Together we can make Fairfax County Dementia Friendly!

Robin: Dementia Friendly Fairfax is such a great initiative, and lucky to have such passionate team members! Thank you both so much for your time and insight today.

Dementia Friendly Fairfax offers:

  • Spring Webinar Series begins First Fridays at 1:00 pm on March 4, 2022
  • Dementia Friends Information Sessions
    • At Insight Memory Care Center on Third Thursdays at 10:00 am (Register here)
    • Presented by DFF Champions Allegra Joffe Fahringer & Diane Watson – March 8, May 10, July 12, Nov 29 and Dec 13 at 12 noon (Register here)
    • Presented by DFF Champions Diane Watson & Nicole McMonigle Knight – March 30, April 27, and May 25 at 12 noon (Register here)

To learn more about Dementia Friendly Fairfax and how you can get involved, visit our website at





"I like that IMCC focuses on dementia-related problems and provides a focal point for families to network and socially interact in coping with dementia. It provides a community that helps us in our struggle."