On World Alzheimer’s Day (21st September) communities, organisations and individuals around the world come together to highlight issues around dementia and explore ways we can support people living with dementia to continue to enjoy life.
There are nearly 50 million people with dementia worldwide and by 2021, over a million people will be living with the condition in the UK (Alzheimer’s Society).
That’s why it’s important for everyone to work together to tackle this global challenge, from the government, businesses and other organisations to people living with dementia and their family and friends.
Creating dementia-friendly communities
Dementia friendly communities are places where people with dementia can live well, feeling understood, supported, respected and valued.
This means changing the way people and organisations think and act towards people with dementia and offering education and support.
Demonstrating this in action, the BBC reports the story of a train company that made its rail line more dementia friendly, while The Guardian features more examples of retailers that have trained their staff to recognise and assist customers with dementia – a great step forward. The Alzheimer’s Societies’ Dementia Friends initiative also teaches people about small ways they can help in everyday life.
At Four Seasons Health Care all of our colleagues take part in our ‘Dementia Experience' specially designed to help people better understand the condition. The experience involves restricting your vision, hearing and ability to concentrate then asking you to carry out everyday tasks. Afterwards, many people report feeling "an increased sense of empathy and understanding about the challenges people living with dementia may face. Others have told us the Dementia Experience helped them to feel more knowledgeable about how to support people living in our homes."
Anyone can take part in our Dementia Experience sessions – get in touch to find out more by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Building supportive environments
Surroundings can have a big impact on a person’s well-being and small changes can make life easier for people living with dementia, such as:
- Sensory Gardens
Sensory gardens stimulate using sight, sounds and fragrances, like bright flower beds and musical instruments featured in the surroundings.
- Reminiscence rooms
Transporting residents back in time, reminiscence rooms replicate a bygone era and provide a familiar space where people living with dementia can relax and connect with the past. The rooms feature familiar items to spark memories and stimulate conversation.
Inclusive activities such as song and dance are increasingly being used to support people with dementia, while organisations such as Active Minds have created specialised products like jigsaws, art, games for stimulating the brain.
Memory Cafes are popping up all over the UK, providing a welcoming space for people living with dementia, their families and caregivers to socialise and take time out in a relaxed setting. The regular meet-ups include activities like music, games and photo sharing to stimulate conversations, and sometimes involve speakers from helpful organisations who can share guidance and advice.
The power of friendships across generations has also been explored recently, including inviting pre-school children to care homes to socialise with residents with dementia. The results showed major improvements to residents’ mood, memory and mobility. (Channel 4’s ‘Old People’s Home for 4-Year-Olds’ trial)
Recent small-scale studies also suggest that introducing animals into care homes can have positive effects for people with dementia, including reducing blood pressure and anxiety, improving social interaction and sleeping patterns and reducing restlessness (Society for Companion Animal Studies).
There’s lots of technology that can be adapted to benefit someone with dementia, while specifically designed technology is also available, such as:
- Automated prompts and reminders that use motion sensors or play a pre-recorded voice prompt e.g. switch off the oven or lock the front door or take mediation.
- Clocks and calendars to keep track of the day and date.
- Locator devices to help someone find things
- Communication aids such as pre-programmed phones
- Video chat, where people talk to and see each other via a computer, tablet or smartphone.
- Talking mats- an app that allows people to communicate how they feel by selecting a picture
You can find out more about dementia assistive technology here.
At Four Seasons Health Care we use iPads in our homes as part of our Quality of Life Programme to listen and respond to feedback from residents and their families, visitors, professionals and our colleagues. This helps to make life easier for people living with dementia by allowing us to easily find and fix issues quickly and prevent them from happening again. You can find out more about our dementia-friendly homes here.
For more information about dementia, we’ve provided some handy links below. You can also find out more about World Alzheimer’s Day and the ways you can get involved here.
- Age UK
Date published: 17 September 2018
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