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Living well with dementia

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Dementia, Health and Wellbeing

“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.

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  1. Comment by Pippa Kelly posted on

    Sally, I write extensively in the national press on the elderly, elderly care & its funding & dementia. My mum had dementia for over 10yrs. The language surrounding dementia is sensitive & interesting & as ever with language, the issue runs far deeper than the words themselves. See my blog: I'm now interested in the tension between raising awareness of dementia in the press and the sensitivities of those with dementia. The two can sometimes, unhelpfully, prove incompatible (though they shouldn't have to be). The "dementia community" sometimes have fears (and misunderstandings) about the work and aims of the national press, who in turn can misrepresent through lack of understanding. I would like to further this debate and help in creating a better mutual understanding between the two.

    • Replies to Pippa Kelly>

      Comment by Sally Warren posted on

      Thanks for your comment Pippa. Improving understanding of dementia is one of the things we’ll be focusing on via the ‘Dementia Movement’ when it launches later this year. We’ll do everything we can to use language that is appropriate and helpful, and will be testing our key materials among people with dementia. Bringing the national press along with us will be an important part of our approach

  2. Comment by Belinda Johnston posted on

    Thank you for a very clear and succinct article about the dementia initiatives and what interested individuals and communities can proactively do. My interest is the proven health and social benefits of human-companion animal relationships and we are very keen that the role of pets (residential, visiting, wildlife, any appropriate species) is highlighted and prioritised, where possible, to enhance the wellbeing of all people living with dementia (the carers and cared for).