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13 Jan 2020

Building Dementia Friendly Organisations

Building Dementia Friendly Organisations

Make your organisation more dementia-friendly with this helpful guide!

Dementia is one of the greatest challenges we face in society today. All businesses can contribute to tackling the social and economic impact of dementia. From retail to housing, utilities to entertainment, finance to transport, all sectors have a part to play.

The Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia states that: by 2020 we want people living with dementia to live the life they want to lead in their communities. Dementia will affect everyone in every sector and every industry, from customers to staff. With the UK statutory retirement age rising, and the number of people with dementia expected to rise to 1 million
by 2021, we will see many more people developing dementia whilst still in employment. Many others will seek to combine being a carer with working. Businesses need to future proof all aspects of their operations. Consumers want businesses and organisations which value their customers.

How serious is the problem? 

This infographic created by the Alzheiemer's Society shows how serious the problem is and how many people it impacts. 

Making the UK the first Dementia Friendly country...

In March 2012, the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia was launched to make the UK the first dementia-friendly nation. 

The challenge set out three key commitments to deliver in the areas of: research, health and social care and the development of dementiafriendly communities. The aim is to support people with dementia to live well in their community and enable them to continue doing the everyday things that we all take for granted, such as going shopping or going to
the bank. Carers also need understanding and support to be able to continue to do what they have always done while accompanying someone with more severe cognitive
problems. Businesses and organisations play a critical role in helping to achieve this, supporting both staff and customers affected by dementia.

What people living with Dementia have told the Alzheimer's Society...

■ Statistics show that less than half (47%) of people living with dementia feel a part of their community (Alzheimer’s Society, 2013).

■ People with dementia said that they had to give up activities such as getting out of the house (28%), shopping (23%), exercise (22%) and using transport (16%) (Alzheimer’s Society, 2013).

■ This is mirrored as nearly three quarters (73%) of UK adults surveyed do not think that society, including businesses and organisations, are geared up to deal with dementia (Alzheimer’s Society, 2013).

■ Almost 80% of people with dementia listed shopping as their favourite activity. However, 63% of people surveyed didn’t think that shops were doing enough to help people with dementia (Alzheimer’s Society, 2013).

■ 33% of people think that shops and local businesses would benefit if people with dementia had more support to be involved in their local community (Alzheimer’s Society, 2013).

What do people with Dementia worry about?

Problems with mobility and navigating around the stores or premises. For example, difficulty recognising places; unclear signage; patterns or shiny surfaces being disorientating; overwhelming background noise; fear of getting lost inside a space; problems finding items; and not knowing where to go or who to go to for additional support.

Challenges caused by their memory problems. For example, forgetting their address, birthday or online passwords; remembering a different time or era; sequencing a task in the
wrong order; confusing information or being unable to find the right words to describe the items they need.

Problems when paying. For example, having difficulty remembering chip and pin codes; trouble counting or recognising money; coping with new technology and payment methods; feeling rushed and worrying that they will forget to pay or actually forgetting to pay.

Worries about other people’s reactions. For example, people not understanding their difficulties; not following social cues; staff not being confident to help or the reaction of security staff to unusual behaviour. 

Business benefits of becoming a dementia-friendly business:

  • Competitive advantage – research shows that 83% of people with memory problems have switched their shopping habits to places that are more accessible (Alzheimer’s Society, 2013). Becoming dementia-friendly will enable businesses to retain existing customers and attract new ones.
  • Increased revenue – there are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK. As a leader in dementiafriendly practices, businesses will retain and build on existing custom, both from people living with the condition and from their carers, family and friends.
  • Improved customer service – increased knowledge and awareness of dementia will make staff more confident when dealing with all customers. They will have a greater understanding of potential scenarios, and as a result will be able to provide better customer service and reduce the number of complaints on similar issues. 

Social benefits of becoming dementia-friendly:

Helping people to live well with dementia – being part of the community and being able to continue with everyday tasks are important factors that help people to live well with
dementia. Becoming a dementia-friendly business means enabling people to carry on doing the things they want to do.

Helping people stay independent – people with dementia want to remain independent and live at home for as long as possible. Being supported by the organisations they use plays
a big part in this.

Improving accessibility for the whole community – getting it right for customers with dementia means that others will benefit too, including older customers. Changes such as having clear signage, or providing a quiet space, will be appreciated by everyone.

Reducing social isolation – people living with and affected by dementia are often isolated from the wider community due to lack of understanding and stigma. With loneliness and social isolation as harmful to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day (Holt-Lunstad, 2015), organisations and businesses have an important role to help raise awareness and increase understanding. For some customers shopping or visiting businesses is a vital way of alleviating loneliness.

What does becoming a dementia-friendly business involve?

Businesses and organisations can make a big difference for people with dementia and their carers by making a commitment to become more dementia-friendly in three key areas:

  • People
  • Processes
  • Place

Becoming more Dementia Friendly means:

■ Having a senior responsible owner and a working group to support this work, ensuring it is embedded at all levels

■ Understanding the impact of dementia and how it changes customer needs

■ Considering how a businesses products, processes and services can help customers affected by dementia

■ Using this guidance to make changes within the store, premises or offices at all levels of the organisation

■ Supporting employees with caring responsibilities who might be affected by dementia

■ Supporting people who may be showing signs of dementia, whether they are customers or employees.

It doesn't mean:

■ Become dementia-friendly from day one

■ Identify customers who have dementia

■ Ask customers difficult or intrusive questions

■ Breach existing legislation such as the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Mental Capacity Act 2005

■ Ignore normal security processes and procedures.

How to ensure that your business is as Dementia Friendly as possible:

The needs of people with dementia need to be considered in all aspects of your business to ensure that products and services are relevant and people with dementia are safeguarded when necessary. This can be done by engaging with local people living with dementia or specialist organisations.

People with dementia may not want to self-identify, or may not be aware they have dementia. Systems, processes and support mechanisms need to consider this to ensure all customers who need support have access to it. 

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