Maureen O'Hara who featured in the Dementia Understand Together TV advertisement campaign
As part of World Alzheimer Month this September, the Tullamore Tribune, in partnership with the HSE’s Dementia: Understand Together campaign, is featuring a series of articles on aspects of life with dementia. In this first article of the series, we focus on community and what you can do to support people with dementia and their families locally.
Stigma is a significant barrier for people with dementia in living as well as possible. It can prevent them seeking support and stop others talking to them, excluding them from community life.
Dementia: Understand Together in communities aims to raise awareness and increase people’s understanding of dementia, to inspire the nation to stand together with those affected. We want to change the culture around dementia and help create an Ireland that embraces and includes people living with the condition.
Every Community Affected
Each year over 11,000 people in Ireland develop dementia. That’s 30 people every day. 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.
The majority of people with dementia in Ireland live in the community. These communities have been going through significant changes this year that have brought challenges for people with dementia and their families. The nature of business and community services is also changing. Businesses, service providers and community champions can, and are, making a big difference to quality of life for people with dementia and their families by enabling them to become actively engaged in communities.
Making businesses, services and activities accessible to people with dementia, especially with COVID-19 restrictions changing the way we interact, is immensely important for their well-being. Alongside more than 340 community champions, over 40 national partner organisations from the retail, transport, banking, health, voluntary and community sectors have joined the campaign to help create dementia-inclusive communities.
Understanding Life with Dementia
Based on the principle “nothing for us, without us” people with dementia and their families have been at the heart of the campaign. By way of example, a number of national transport providers have organised various dementia awareness initiatives including training for staff and workshops with people with dementia to explore their travel experience and how that can be enhanced.
People with dementia have told us that knowing staff have received dementia awareness training and seeing them wear the Dementia: Understand Together badge makes them feel safe and able to travel alone. A little understanding can go a long way.
Many businesses, from pharmacies to banks, along with sporting and cultural organisations, have taken steps to become dementia-inclusive. The first step is dementia training, which can be delivered online, to provide an understanding of life with dementia.
Many local community champions work hand-in-hand with organisations, councils and local businesses to raise awareness. They do this by sharing information, providing training, and creating inclusive services, and by inspiring sports and other community groups to embrace people with dementia. They are the spirit of the campaign.
There are six simple actions we can all take to support people with dementia and their families:
See the person, not the dementia
Talk about dementia
Ask how you can help
Stay in touch
Support the person to keep up hobbies and interests
Make sure your space or service is easy to use
The Dementia: Understand Together campaign has created tip sheets for businesses, arts and cultural facilities, emergency services, transport providers, and other community-based organisations, to support them in making their services dementia-inclusive.
To support our community champions, we have a range of resources including our virtual Champion Cafés where you can connect with other champions and listen to interesting guest speakers, as well as providing guides, flyers, and badges for distribution. Together, we can each make a powerful difference to the lives of people with dementia in our communities.
Top Five Tips to make your Business Dementia-Inclusive
Be understanding. Behind the dementia is a person who may need a little support and understanding. Listen carefully to what the person is saying, giving reassurance that you are there to help.
Consider your body language. How we come across can make a big difference in helping a person feel safe. Smile warmly, make eye contact, use a friendly tone and respect the person’s personal space.
Handling money. Recognising cards or coins may be difficult for a person with dementia. Give them time to complete the transaction and always provide a receipt.
Support choice. If necessary, describe the options available to the person, using straight-forward language and short sentences and allow the person time to decide.
Look around. A noisy space, frequent changes to the environment and inadequate signage can all cause confusion for a person with dementia. If you notice someone lost or distressed, offer assistance.
The Dementia: Understand Together campaign is led by the HSE in partnership with the Alzheimer Society of Ireland and Age Friendly Ireland. For information on supports such as weekly Virtual Dementia Cafés for people living with dementia and family carers, as well as information on how to become a dementia champion in your community, visit www.understandtogether.ie or Freefone 1800 341 341 (Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm, Saturday 10am to 4pm).
Fiona Foley is the National Co-ordinator, Dementia: Understand Together in Communities