Dementia at the heart of Norfolk communities

Dementia Action Week encourages everyone to get out in their communities and engage with people with

Dementia Action Week encourages everyone to get out in their communities and engage with people with dementia. - Credit: Archant

With dementia figures on the rise, we need to create communities with kindness, understanding and inclusion at their heart. We find out more about Norfolk's Dementia Friendly Communities and how they're making a difference this Dementia Action Week.

Norfolk has 17 Dementia Friendly Communities recognised by Alzheimer's Society.

Norfolk has 17 Dementia Friendly Communities recognised by Alzheimer's Society. - Credit: Archant

An estimated 16,400 people in Norfolk have dementia – that's equivalent to one in every 53 people, or the populations of Cromer, Hunstanton and Holt combined.

It's a big issue, and one that the NHS, research groups and social care providers are working hard to provide provision for in the future.

But with the ever-increasing numbers of people affected, getting the best treatment and social support is not enough – it needs everyone

to understand what dementia is and how we can enable people

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to live inclusive and fulfilling lives.

Norfolk is embracing the challenge, with 17 Dementia Friendly Communities already recognised, and two more working towards recognition in the near future.

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The Alzheimer's Society's recognition process enables communities to work towards becoming dementia friendly. The best way of doing this is by creating a Dementia Action Alliance (DAA), which can be established at any level, be it a village, city, county or even a region, and they can overlap geographically.

Many of the communities that have achieved Dementia Friendly Community status still work under their Action Alliance to ensure the good work continues.

Norwich City DAA was launched in January 2017 and from a founding membership of eight, the alliance has grown to 70, making it the second largest Dementia Action Alliance in

the East of England by membership, and one of the fastest-growing alliances in the country.

'It is estimated that there are some 2,541 people aged 65-plus in Norwich living with some form of dementia,' says Marie Lucas, who set up the Norwich City DAA and is dementia development lead at Age UK Norwich. 'Our prime focus is to encourage local organisations to raise awareness of dementia with their staff, volunteers and customers and introduce changes to their products, services or environment to improve accessibility for people living with dementia.'

During the launch, Norwich City DAA stated that it wanted

to create 7,000 Dementia Friends in the city by 2020, and it is well on the way to achieving this, with 2,644 to date.

'One of our alliance priorities is to make transport more accessible to people with dementia and their carers,' says Marie, adding that it was one of the main issues highlighted in a survey conducted last year.

'We are currently engaging local taxi operators to join the Norwich City DAA.

'We have four taxi operators in the process of their membership application and we hope to launch a Norwich Dementia Friendly taxi service during Dementia Action Week.'

The Great Yarmouth DAA, which was set up in July 2017, is also currently undertaking a consultation with those living with dementia and their carers in order to identify needs.

'The aim is to get people learning and understanding about dementia,' says chairman Harry Woods.

'Getting rid of any stigma around dementia ,and especially a dementia diagnosis, is the most important thing for me, as well as encouraging people to get an early diagnosis. We want to teach all ages; there are so many misconceptions – even just about what dementia is.'

The group is active in offering Dementia Friends information sessions, with 770 people to date.

It has 25 members, and together they are working on a number of initiatives including encouraging cinemas and theatres to host dementia-friendly sessions; the introduction of a 'buddies' system where people with dementia can take part in activities such as football matches; encouraging more businesses and organisations to consider dementia signage and dementia-friendly surveys of front-facing areas; and working with transport organisations and the council to explore ways to introduce a card system, with information such as the nearest stop to home and an emergency number.

Engaging schools is also a priority, as is creating a user sub-group directly feeding into the strategy team.

Fiona Wynde, Alzheimer's Society Dementia Friendly Communities officer, says: 'It is great to see so many communities united against dementia, ensuring everyone affected by the condition is empowered to live the life they want and no-one has to face dementia alone.'

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