03 December 2018

It takes a village to support people living with dementia

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A dementia-friendly community is a place where people living with dementia are supported to live a high quality of life with meaning, purpose and value.  - Dementia Australia

In Australia there are currently 430,000 people living with dementia. 70% of people with dementia are living in the community. This number is going to continue to rise, so what can be done beyond simply providing services?

In the Northern Beaches of Sydney we have established the Northern Beaches Dementia Alliance and wider working group who will govern and facilitate the local dementia friendly community project. Although our goals are inclusiveness and social change in the community for people living with dementia, we have designed the project as a collaborative education opportunity for providers as well as the community.

Our Alliance and working party includes a variety of local organisations, businesses, community services and groups. We have also recruited local aged care service providers, people living dementia and their carers. As a result of the project, there is a number of benefits to various stakeholders including people living with dementia and their carers, local community members, services providers.

By educating the community and creating social and physical environments that are inclusive, safe and supportive for people living with dementia; we aim to improve quality of life. Physical environments that are dementia friendly have the potential to reduce preventable falls and unnecessary hospitalisations. Supportive and dementia friendly social environments will potentially reduce the impact of caring for someone living with dementia and decrease early admissions into residential aged care facilities. By improving the social and physical environments, we will also see a reduction in the costs associated with dementia care and unnecessary services.

A large focus of the project is education with the goal to improve awareness and reduce the stigma associated with dementia. Dementia-friendly education will be aimed at students, local community members, local businesses and aged care services providers and will cover principles to guide individuals and organisations. Through participation in this project education or consultations, the Northern Beaches Community has the opportunity to experience community cohesion in support of people living with dementia. In addition organisations will work collaboratively alongside people living with dementia and their carers to improve their business practice and be publicly recognised as dementia-friendly.

Throughout the process of design, implementation and evaluation of the project activities, service providers will be immersed in and engaged with the local community, people living with dementia and their carers. As a result , provider knowledge of dementia will be enhanced. Additionally provider understanding of holistic needs and wants of someone living with dementia (outside of the clinical context) will be enhanced and inspire new and creative models of care. As providers engage with the community in a meaningful and collaborative context, their ability to anticipate the needs and wants of future generations will be enhanced. Resultantly we hope to see improvements in strategic planning and innovation to meet these needs and wants.

This represents a drop in the ocean, ripple to start the wave of social action. As more communities stand with their members who are living with dementia we will see greater benefits for the wider society.

For more information, contact Ilsa Bird, Northern Beaches Dementia Friendly Community Project Manager, Your Side

Still interested? Stay tuned for information on upcoming conferences and summits by following us on Facebook @ Akolade Aust 

Written by: Ilsa Bird

Ilsa is an advocate for person-centred care, wellness and reablement in community care. Ilsa initiated the Dementia Friendly Communities project in the Northern Beaches of Sydney. The goal of this project is to improve community awareness of dementia through education and increase opportunities for social inclusion for people living with dementia in the community.

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