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24 May 2018

Dementia Awareness In The Community: What Are The Benefits?

Dementia Awareness In The Community: What Are The Benefits?

This week from 21st to 27th May, it is Dementia Action Week 2018 and so we thought that we would focus on sharing a selection of blog posts that are designed to make life easier for people living with dementia, their loved ones, and their carers. With that in mind, below we have put together a guide to the importance of dementia awareness in the community and how it can make life easier for people living with dementia, and also for their families and carers.

What is dementia?

Dementia is not an illness in itself, instead, it is a group of symptoms that are caused by damage to the brain. This damage is often age-related, but can also be linked to a serious head injury and a range of other lifestyle factors.

The symptoms of dementia include:

  • Short-term memory loss, such as forgetting recent events but remembering older ones. Many people with dementia also find it difficult to follow conversations or watch TV without getting confused.
  • Problems thinking clearly and rational reasoning.
  • Feeling anxious, scared or depressed about memory loss.
  • Feeling confused, even when somewhere familiar.

Dementia is caused by a range of brain diseases, the most common of these is Alzheimer’s Disease, followed closely by Vascular dementia. However, these are not the only brain diseases that cause dementia, others include Pick’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease.

How can awareness help people with dementia?

Dementia is Britain’s biggest killer, there are currently 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia, and by 2025 that number will rise to over 1 million people. That’s why it’s so important that the UK is a country that is dementia aware and dementia friendly, making life easier for people living with dementia and also for their carers and loved ones.

As dementia progresses, the brain becomes increasingly damaged, which means that over time the person will lose sight of who they were before. For families and friends of people with dementia, seeing someone that they care about having their mind eroded over time is hard, especially as the impact of this disease is so devastating.

Dementia does not just arrive out of the blue, it has stages: early stages, mid stages and late stages. It’s these stages that impact how a person who has dementia behaves, as over time their behaviour becomes increasingly different to how they would have behaved when they were well.

The fact is that despite living with dementia, people suffering from this disease have the right to lead a life that is interesting and enjoyable, and they should also be able to remain involved in the local community. The issue is that many communities struggle to know how they can become more dementia-friendly.

How can a community become dementia-friendly?

What exactly is a ‘dementia-friendly community’? A dementia-friendly community is a town, city or village where the whole community takes steps to support people living with dementia. The community understands, respects and does what they can to support individuals living with dementia.

A large number of people affected by dementia feel that their local community has failed them by not understanding the condition that they live with, making it difficult for them to remain an active part of the community. For many people living with dementia, as their condition progresses, they end up withdrawing from society. Studies have shown that ⅓ of people living with dementia feel lonely and isolated, with more than ¼ of carers saying that they also feel cut off from society.

This is a serious problem as people affected by dementia (and their carers) shouldn’t feel isolated from society. These people still have an amazing amount to offer their community, and if properly supported, they can continue to play an active role in their local community, even after a diagnosis of dementia is given.

What does it take to create a more dementia-friendly community?

Creating a dementia-friendly community is the result of the entire community coming together to create a place that makes people with dementia feel engaged and valued. The only way for a community to become dementia-friendly is for everyone to pull together and ensure that people with dementia are valued and respected.

When it comes to building a dementia-friendly community, it’s important to understand that the people who have the most important role are the people who have dementia. By connecting with other people from the community and sharing their concerns, fears and experiences, they can bring to light the needs of those people living with dementia.

One of the best ways to make your community more dementia friendly is to get a group together to form a committee and then spend some time identifying areas for local action. You don’t need to tackle everything all at once, but speaking to local people with dementia and carers and family members of people with dementia can be a good place to start. The areas that you will probably want to focus on are local shops and cafes, arts, culture and leisure facilities, health and social care, emergency services, transport, and housing.

An important part of creating a dementia-friendly community is monitoring your progress. It’s worth hosting regular meetings to ensure that the whole community is able to monitor your success.

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