Dementia support group offers hope

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By Kurston Smith, Intern

It is said that with age comes wisdom. However, for some, age can also mean a diagnosis of dementia.  

The reality of a dementia diagnosis can be difficult to navigate – especially when it involves a loved one or friend, co-worker, or employee. 

Developed by the Alzheimer’s Society in the United Kingdom, Dementia Friends USA is a “global movement” that is changing the way people think, act, and talk in regards to dementia. 

Georgia, along with many other states, offers the Dementia Friends Program through the Georgia Department of Human Services, Division of Aging Services. 

Mary Jo Johnson who has worked in dementia care for over 30 years, is a trained Dementia Friends Champion in Madison. 

She completed her training to become a Dementia Friends Champion this past June when Georgia kicked off their Dementia Friends group. 

As of now, the state goal is to have 500 Dementia Friends within a year. 

“For me, I really became involved when my father was diagnosed with dementia at the young age of 65,” said Johnson. “I hope to reduce the tragedy narrative and fear factor that comes with the diagnosis.” 

Johnson points out that dementia is a condition that has far-reaching affects. 

““There is an increasing prevalence of dementia,” said Johnson in a previous interview. “One in three people knows someone with dementia, and one in 10 are related.”

She further explains that she isn’t trying to minimize the pain but instead, find all the joy possible during the final years of a loved ones life with dementia. 

Johnson says that she wants to spread the word, grow the informational fraction and create a more “dementia friendly” community. 

“Anyone can become a Dementia Friend Champion,” she said. 

Mary Jo Johnson works with Wellbridge who are in the process of constructing and opening an independent, senior living community in Madison. Whether on an individual basis or an organization basis, she encourages the community to reach out and schedule an information session. 

They are one hour long each and can dramatically improve the gap that is often between dementia and society. She is currently looking to book information sessions with businesses, families, churches, and even schools. 

For more information, you can call Mary Jo Johnson at 844-449-9355 or email her at

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