West Midlands communities leading the way to becoming dementia-friendly

Local groups to help Alzheimer’s sufferers.

An MP, ex-chief draughtsman, company director and university lecturer are amongst those gearing up to becoming dementia-friendly in Herefordshire, Shropshire, Birmingham and Coventry, along with other organisations including a theatre, a city council, and several businesses.

They have been setting up art projects and activity groups as well as holding information sessions and attending awareness sessions to become Dementia Friends and Dementia Friends Champions.

The Alzheimer’s Society today launched a report ‘Building Dementia Friendly Communities: A priority for everyone’, which reveals less than half of people living with dementia feel a part of the community (47%) and nearly three quarters (73%) of UK adults surveyed do not think society is geared up to deal with dementia.

A dementia-friendly community is a city, town or village where people with dementia are understood, respected, supported and confident they can contribute to community life. At a conference in London, the Alzheimer’s Society is announcing the 10 simple steps communities can take towards becoming ‘dementia-friendly’, as well as launching the new symbol that communities can use to show their commitment to making these changes. The steps range from challenging stigma to including people with dementia in local life and highlight the importance of accessible transport and businesses that are respectful and responsive.

Many people with dementia reported feeling trapped in their own homes and let down by their communities, with one in three only getting out once a week and one in ten managing this once a month. Now the charity is calling on more neighbourhoods to take action to become a Dementia Friendly Community to help reduce the stigma surrounding the disease and support and improve the lives of people with the condition.

Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust have secured funding of £903,700 rom the Department of Health, which will be used to carry out upgrades to 12 wards across City, Sandwell General and Rowley Regis Hospitals plus Leasowes Intermediate Care Unit.

Rachel Overfield, chief nurse at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs all four centres, said: “The trust is committed to refining the way we care for people with dementia to make their stay as stress free as possible. The planned upgrades will focus on reducing the disorientation and frustration patients with dementia often experience when they are brought into an unfamiliar environment, such as a hospital ward. Some of the funding will be spent changing décor to make individual bays on wards distinctive and easily recognisable to the patient. Nursing stations will be revamped to enable nurses to care more effectively for patients with dementia while money will also be used to build or improve gardens for patients to enjoy outdoor activities.”

David Ash, area manager for the Alzheimer’s Society in the West Midlands, said: “We want people from all walks of life and backgrounds to join the Dementia Friendly Communities movement. It’s good to see how far we have come but unfortunately there are still too many people with dementia who do not feel supported and part of their local area; they feel trapped in their own home, isolated, lonely and a burden. Many people with dementia are unable to take part in activities they enjoyed before they developed the condition, they want to engage with society but need support to do so along with improved facilities and transport. I would urge everyone to find out more on how you and your neighbourhood can become a dementia friendly community.”

For more information on the official recognition process log on to www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementiafriendlycommunities