“I find it difficult to work out what the time is, and that’s particularly useful when I'm fishing”
Peter Dunlop's opening to the G8 dementia summit was powerful not only for describing the challenges he and his family have faced, but also for reminding us that people with dementia can live well if they have the right support.
The ‘right support’ encompasses a wide range of activity. It isn't just ‘out there’ in formal services, vitally important though they are: it is also intensely personal. It is about you and me.
At Public Health England we’re making action on dementia one of our top priorities. Dementia is clearly a global public health challenge, one which has increasing urgency as our population ages. Later this week Dr Charles Alessi will be blogging about how we can support people to reduce their risk of dementia. I want to use this blog to consider how we can support personal and community-level action to help people to live well with dementia.
Last week I attended a Dementia Friends awareness session, along with the rest of the PHE National Executive. I cannot recommend these enough. One of the most powerful messages in the sessions is that it is possible to live well with dementia and that we all can make a difference. The little things can be tremendously powerful, even if it’s just making sure to give time and compassion to a person struggling with their change at the till.
Dementia Friends is an Alzheimer's Society initiative, and as part of the Prime Minister’s Challenge on dementia PHE are supporting the recruitment of one million Dementia Friends by 2015. In spring this year we will be launching the ‘Dementia Movement’, a collaboration across the voluntary, business and public sectors that aims to improve public attitudes towards dementia and give more people the confidence to engage with people with dementia. It will aim to improve skills so more people know how to help, inviting individuals to become a Dementia Friend and communities and businesses to become dementia friendly. Expect to hear a lot more about the things we can do to support people with dementia over the coming months.
If you’re reading this blog you probably have a doubly important role to play, both as an individual but also as part of the public health system. There is a lot we can all do in this second role, recognising that to improve the lives of people with dementia we need to improve the environment around them.
Last year Alzheimer’s Society’s published Building Dementia Friendly Communities, which I highly recommend. It builds a powerful vision of a whole-community response to dementia, describing practical action that can be taken by housing associations, bus companies, care homes, banks and all the organisations that make up our communities. PHE is supporting the Dementia Friendly Communities initiative, which supports local areas in becoming dementia friendly. One way to drive collaboration in your community is to set up a Dementia Action Alliance and develop an action plan encompassing a range of organisations. If you work in health and care, you can visit the Dementia Partnerships website and exchange learning with colleagues across the country.
Public sector organisations have a powerful role to play as commissioners and service providers, but also as employers. Following my Dementia Friends session I made a commitment to champion PHE in becoming dementia-friendly organisation. With offices in more than 100 communities we can have tremendous impact. Why not use the comments below to share the commitments you have been making, individually or corporately, to improve the lives of people with dementia? I look forward to hearing from you.