Now Is The Time: Advocate To Overcome The Stigma Of Dementia
November 30, 2022
Tara Krantzman, COO of Oakwood Creative Care

Oakwood Creative Care’s COO, Tara Krantzman, was one of 50 aging services professionals selected from across the country to participate in the 2022 LeadingAge Academy.

The LeadingAge Academy aims to develop the capacities and core competencies of leaders through self-exploration, relationship-building, and reflection. These practices help develop a deeper understanding of one’s self while uncovering unique leadership attributes and learning how to stretch and leverage those capacities to have the most impact as leaders.

After intimate study circles, site visits, and collaboration with others from all over the country,  Tara has concluded her fellowship academy feeling inspired and hopeful for the future for seniors with dementia – but also recognizing that there is still a lot of work and advocacy to be done. 

Combating Stigma & Ageism: It’s Time To Call It As We See It

The stigma of aging services is real, let alone the stigma of older adults with dementia. During my fellowship experience, stigma and “ageism” were at the forefront of every discussion and identified as a gap in the sector. Aging professionals across the country recognize that “aging isn’t sexy,” with the aging sector negatively perceived as a challenge or crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated and revealed these disparities and discriminations tenfold. As a result, aging is feared rather than celebrated and honored. But how do we combat “ageism?” I’ve learned that we must first call it as we see it. We are obligated to do so as professionals, care partners, friends, and educators, and, more importantly, as a community. So, call out the jokes about “senior moments.”

Call on your physicians and other health care providers to acknowledge your spouse or parent – not just you as the care partner. Now is the time. Seek joy. Share joy. Spread joy.

LeadingAge Academy Fellowship: Advocate For Seniors With Dementia

Advocate For Veterans And Low-Income Seniors With Dementia

Another common theme throughout my fellowship was the movement to invite diversity, equity, and inclusion into the conversation. Aging is not an equitable experience. Every day, our older adults face social injustices, systemic discrimination, lack of equity, and inclusion. During my academy fellowship, these disparities in accessing certain support and services came to light.

I had traveled to beautiful life plans and residential communities and thought, “Who wouldn’t want to live on a charming campus with all the luxuries and perks?” From five-star dining and state-of-the-art music and art programs to innovative healthcare centers on campus with award-winning technology and other amenities, these communities were redefining community living and retirement for seniors. 

Oakwood Creative Care Day Clubs For Seniors and Veterans With Dementia

Sadly, my heart ached in knowing that the vast majority of Oakwood’s members could never afford the million-dollar buy-in and $7000-$8,000 monthly payments. I could not help but think: what about our veterans and those on Medicaid funding? These are communities that our veterans, who rely on support from the Veteran’s Administration, would not have access to – the very same men and women who gave their lives and fought for our country. 

And what about those who are on Medicaid or applying for Medicaid because they have depleted their financial resources due to the financial burden of the costs associated with Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, and other related dementias? This is a retirement experience they may never know. We must bridge the gap between those who are underserved with those that are overserved.

Seniors With Dementia Deserve The Same Opportunities

Finally, what about those living with dementia? Sadly, there was not enough conversation surrounding this topic. I was disheartened as I traveled around the country looking for that one community doing exemplary work in dementia care and engagement. Over the course of the year, I found myself asking the same question over and over: “But what about those living with dementia?”

In every community I visited, those living with memory impairment were secluded within a “memory care unit.” There was a clear lack of inclusion, as those with memory impairment were not afforded the same opportunities, experiences, or engagement as those in independent living or assisted living.

If there is one thing I have learned in my ten years at Oakwood, it is that our members with dementia CAN have the same opportunities that you and I want. However, our industry is so narrowly focused and fear-driven that they are missing out on the opportunity to radically change dementia care within their communities.

LeadingAge Academy Fellowship: Advocate For Seniors With Dementia

Advocating For Seniors Locally & Beyond: The Dementia Hub

At the conclusion of this year-long fellowship, I walked away with one commitment: I will continue to advocate for inclusivity to overcome the fear and stigma of Dementia. 

Nationally, this feels monumental. But, locally, I couldn’t be more proud or excited for what the future has in store for Oakwood Creative Care and the Dementia Hub. The Dementia Hub is a place to create and build a community with access to COPE Dementia Coaching Sessions using an adapted model of Drexel University’s evidence-based intervention. The COPE team includes a Physician Assistant, an Occupational Therapist, and a Clinical Social Worker, each of whom is a solution architect and understands quality of life goals, opens pathways to care and support at home and in the community, and provides training and education to the family.

The COPE model utilizes a variety of stress reduction techniques and communication strategizing, as well as problem-solving and brainstorming, to increase care partner confidence in redirecting challenging behaviors, adapting and modifying the home environment to achieve safety, optimizing functional independence, and increasing meaningful engagement at home.

In addition, the Dementia Hub provides Memory Cafes to increase feelings of community, support, and meaningful engagement. Furthermore, the Dementia Hub is a center for a variety of Community Training and Education Classes designed to increase community education and foster quality engagement skill sets of the workforce and the ability to apply nonpharmacological interventions for people with dementia.

Finally, the Dementia Hub is now home to a dementia-friendly business designation created to educate businesses on how they can become a dementia-friendly location. This is done through training organizations to learn what dementia is, as well as educating teams on how to recognize the signs and risks of dementia, learn tips for communicating with consumers who may have dementia, connect to local resources, create dementia-friendly spaces, and support their employees who have been impacted by dementia.

I believe every person with dementia deserves a champion in their corner, someone fighting for them to have the same opportunities and experiences as everyone else. The Dementia Hub is just the beginning of our future-forward plan of providing for and advocating for inclusivity and, most of all, overcoming the fear and stigma surrounding dementia. 

Did You Know?

Oakwood Creative Care is bringing back the JOY in aging! We believe a diagnosis should not have to define your life. Instead, we have devoted our mission to reigniting hope for caregivers and older adults with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other age-related challenges. Click the button below to learn more about how we do this through our research-based, cutting-edge, creative care model found at each of our Day Clubs.

Tara Krantzman, OCC COO and Dementia Advocate


We're a nonprofit organization based in Mesa, Arizona with three senior day club locations (and a fourth on the way) which serve older adults with Alzheimer's, dementia, Parkinson's, and various other physical or cognitive challenges. Life does not end with a diagnosis. Our members continue to learn new skills, enjoy new discoveries, make friends, laugh, and live a joy-filled life. Our team of dementia experts lead support groups, events, classes, and private sessions with caregivers and families, guiding them on the best methods to care for their loved ones while also caring for themselves.

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