People living with dementia, their family, and carers can face barriers to active participation in their communities. Some examples of these difficulties might be:
For the past few years, a number of countries around the world – most notably Japan and the UK – have worked hard to tackle these difficulties, and to develop ‘dementia-friendly communities’.
But what do the words ‘dementia-friendly’ and ‘dementia-friendly communities’ mean?
Dementia-friendly communities are places that support people with dementia to:
Dementia Alliance International is an advocacy organisation, campaigning for a better deal for people with dementia around the world. You can only be a member of Dementia Alliance International if you have a diagnosis of dementia. Kate Swaffer, head of Dementia Alliance International, says:
“The importance of the concept of dementia friendly communities fits with the needs of our human rights and disability rights to be recognised. In the same way as any other person with a disability, we should be supported to remain independent in our communities for as long as possible.”
A lot of the difficulties faced by people with dementia relate to the stigma associated with dementia, and with the lack of awareness in the community about dementia.
This is where efforts to promote dementia-friendly communities come into play. If people know about and understand dementia, they’re more likely to be supportive in their contact with people with dementia. This learning is important at an individual level (say friends and family learning more about dementia) and at an organisational and society level too (for example, banks and shopping centres becoming ‘dementia-friendly’).
What matters most is that people with dementia and their family carers are involved from the outset in any campaigns to develop dementia-friendly communities. After all, people with dementia are the best people to decide if a community is dementia-friendly. Some of the best work in this area happens when a person or group of people with dementia report similar difficult experiences (say difficulties on public transport), and take action together to improve that particular service (people with dementia being involved in some training on dementia awareness for public transport staff).
Ozcare’s dementia advisors offer support to individual people with dementia and their families all over Queensland, and they also do a lot of work with local communities to promote dementia awareness.
Some good examples of this are:
It doesn’t take long to realise that there are so many places where work needs to be done to promote dementia-friendly communities! Here are just some examples:
If the people who work in and use these regular, everyday places are given information and awareness about dementia, this can only help people with dementia. Similarly, if younger people are taught about dementia, there is hope that the next generation will have a better understanding of the needs of people with dementia.
We’ve also pulled together a new handy-size leaflet on ‘Living well with dementia’, which answers some basic questions about dementia:
Since 2014, Alzheimer’s Australia has led a major campaign to promote dementia-friendly communities in Australia. Some of the most substantial work to develop dementia-friendly communities has been done in Port Macquarie and in Kiama, both in NSW.
Other good examples are:
For the past five or so years, there has been a wide range of actions around the world to promote dementia awareness and dementia-friendly communities. Some of the most important programs are:
Each one of us can make a difference. Here are some suggestions for the sorts of things that individuals can do to promote dementia-friendly communities:
Dementia Friendly Communities - Australia
Alzheimer’s Australia’s website hub with a range of resources to support the development of dementia-friendly communities in Australia
Dementia-Friendly Communities: Global Developments
Alzheimer’s Disease International 2016 report
Dementia-Friendly Communities - UK
Alzheimer’s Disease International
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