dementia friendly communities treat people with respect and dignity

Last week, I wrote about the new WHO Dementia Plan, which aims to improve global diagnosis, treatment, and knowledge about dementia. Some dementia activism organizations worked with the WHO and UN to bring the issue to the forefront, but they also raised awareness about the way that people with dementia are treated in society. One way to improve treatment is to make sure that we create dementia friendly communities.

Dementia Alliance International (DAI) is one of the dementia activism organizations that worked with the WHO. It is a group that is created by and for people with dementia. The mission of DAI includes encouraging people diagnosed with dementia to live beyond the diagnosis and to reduce stigma and isolation within society. Kate Swaffer, a founder of DAI and person diagnosed with dementia, is a retired nurse who specialized in dementia care. In a speech about her experiences as a woman with dementia, Kate said: “Perhaps the biggest challenge in tackling the issue from a gender perspective is the stigma, discrimination, and the many myths and misperceptions about dementia. For example, those if us choosing to live well with dementia more publicly, with disability support for disabilities that to most, are invisible, are too often being accused of not having dementia, or lying about it, and this has become systemic, and could even be seen as a for of bullying.” Having dementia friendly communities would ideally shut down this bullying.

The Guardian set out get expert advice on creating such communities. They hosted a panel discussion with various dementia advocates and experts with the question: “What makes a dementia friendly community?” Some of the key responses to this discussion emphasized education, inclusion, and respect. In truly friendly communities, people with dementia will feel comfortable to go out into the world. One panelist suggested the idea of supermarket slow lanes in which one cashier is trained in dementia or disability support and can assist patrons as they need it. Another important aspect of dementia friendly communities is that they include people with dementia in community decisions and take their viewpoints seriously and without belittlement. “Sometimes people’s fear of communicating ineffectively [with people who have dementia] can really impact on them and cause them to hold back,” another panelist explained. Simply being a patient and considerate community member can make a big difference in helping everyone to feel more comfortable.

Dementia Friendly Communities are also simply Friendly Communities

Expanding medical treatment and research into dementia is one way of improving the lives of those with dementia and their families; however, day to day interactions have a significant impact as well. Communities can offer education on the various stages of dementia and we can always become more inclusive and mindful to others’ needs. In which ways would you like to see communities becoming more dementia friendly?

Read about what others had to say about dementia friendly communities at The Guardian.

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