FOR people with dementia and their families, it is often the small things that make a big difference.
Dementia: Understand Together is working to create a social movement where people all around the country, be it individuals, businesses, service providers or community groups, are inspired to take simple actions to tackle the stigma and isolation often experienced by people with dementia and their families.
Today there are about 55,000 people living with dementia in Ireland. This number is set to more than double by 2036. Indeed, each year more than 4,000 people in Ireland develop dementia — that’s over 11 people every day. As numbers increase it is vital that we address the challenges dementia poses to the individual, families and our communities.
Behind the numbers are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, neighbours and friends. All are living with a degenerative neurological condition that deeply affects their lives and the lives of people who care for them.
Dementia: Understand Together now has more than 230 community champions and in excess of 40 national partners from the retail, transport, banking, health and the voluntary and community sectors, who are taking actions to make their communities dementia-inclusive.
Getting Out & About
While a diagnosis of dementia does change people’s lives, we know people can still live well with it and that the majority of people with dementia continue to live in the community. We can all make a difference and play our own part in making life in our villages and towns that little bit better for them.
For businesses, while becoming more dementia-inclusive is a socially-responsible step in raising awareness and promoting understanding of dementia, it also improves the customer experience as a whole and brings economic benefits.
Some of Ireland’s leading travel organisations, including Bus Éireann, Iarnród Éireann, Local Link, Dublin Bus, Irish Rural Link and Dublin Airport Authority have signed up as partners with the Dementia: Understand Together campaign and are taking steps to improve the travel experience for people with dementia and their families into the future.
While the situation of every person with dementia is different, staying engaged and connected is important for health and wellbeing, and it’s always more enjoyable to share experiences with a family member or friend.
For those who are in a position to take a break, it can offer huge benefits for both the person with dementia and theer loved ones. These include keeping the brain active by exploring new places and activities, maintaining social stimulation and making new friends, and enjoying physical activity such as walking, cycling or swimming.
Making a More Dementia-Inclusive Community
Here are six simple actions that you, your family, friends, community groups and organisations can take to support people with dementia and their families:
1. See the person, not the dementia. A diagnosis certainly brings challenges and change, but dementia is only one part of a person’s life.
2. Talk about dementia. Help raise awareness and understanding by organising information sessions and sharing experiences.
3. Ask how you can help. Sometimes we can be unsure what we can do to support a friend or neighbour, so just ask them. Small things can make all the difference.
4. Stay in touch. A diagnosis of dementia often leads to isolation so continue to call or drop in for a chat as you always did.
5. Support the person to keep up hobbies and interests. Ask clubs and community groups to ensure they are welcoming and accessible so that everyone can continue to do the things they enjoy.
6. Make sure your service or space is easy to use. Encourage businesses and service-providers to review their premises to ensure that they are accessible and inclusive.
Will you be a Dementia Community Champion?
It is important to remember that inclusivity starts with one person. We all have a role to play in making our communities inclusive for everyone. A friendly word, a smile, a gesture, can make a huge difference to a person’s day.
By getting involved in this campaign, you are joining other individuals around Ireland who recognise that a community consists of all of its people and that this is what makes it stronger.
With a little extra commitment, you could join this social movement and become a community champion. You can bring people in your community together, raise awareness and inspire others to take actions to positively support the lives of people with dementia and their families. As a community champion, talk about dementia and engage with as many people in your community as possible. You can work with your local council, businesses, community groups and service providers, share information, explore how services can become inclusive and let them know about training and resources available to them.
This article series has been developed by Dementia: Understand Together, which is a public support, awareness and information campaign led by the HSE in partnership with The Alzheimer Society of Ireland and Genio. For more information about how you can take action and the supports available in Cork, visit understandtogether.ie/get-involved or Freephone 1800 341 341