How can communities become more accessible and supportive for people living with dementia? A series of Dementia Friendly Communities Consumer Forums in Adelaide has generated plenty of suggestions from people with dementia, carers, family members and service providers. Kathryn Cunningham explains.
“It’s a lonely and frustrating disease,” says David Anderson, a South Australian resident living with younger onset dementia. David was one of more than 130 people who attended a series of Dementia Friendly Communities Consumer Forums in Adelaide late last year, organised by Alzheimer’s Australia SA to allow people living with dementia, their families and carers to share experiences, discuss what is required to make communities more accessible to them, and offer a way forward.
David’s views and comments are typical of people living with dementia in any community: “People living with dementia and their carers talk about the challenges and difficulties they experience with technology, shop service, bank dealings and utilities service, post offices, using transport, going on holidays, maintaining social contact and enjoying hobbies and interests,” he says.
“These things are taken for granted by most people and form an everyday part of a person’s life until they are confronted with the deterioration in their abilities. A person living with dementia’s attitude, personal characteristics and behaviour are also often misinterpreted by society, thus adding to the challenges and difficulties. They can feel trapped and cut off from everyday life, feel let down by the community, feel like a burden, so they avoid getting involved with community life,” David says.
“Dementia-friendly communities would recognise that a person living with dementia lives in a slightly different world and that the speed of society and its processes is sometimes beyond that person’s comprehension and capabilities.
“A dementia-friendly community would show a high level of public awareness and understanding of the disease, be inclusive of the person living with dementia and assist the person living with dementia to have choice and control over their lives, to remain independent and to participate in activities that are meaningful to them.”
What we have learnt in these recent conversations about creating dementia-friendly communities is paramount to the way Alzheimer’s Australia SA will help to facilitate a whole-of-state change which will assist in tackling dementia issues head on. People living with dementia, their families and carers are integral in developing services that best meet their needs. Regular consumer forums like these provide a means for people to share their experiences with others and with Alzheimer’s Australia SA.
SOURCE: “Dementia-friendly communities: What consumers really want .” Australian Journal of Dementia Care blog. Posted on March 29, 2014 by AJDC Team.
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