Dementia-friendly communities: A year in review
Dementia can make it more difficult for people to stay engaged in their communities. Barriers can be social or physical and often make it harder for people with dementia to get around, connect with friends and family members or even participate in the recreational activities they previously enjoyed. However, with the right tools, education and information we can all play a role in changing our communities so they are more accessible, inclusive and supportive.
Alzheimer’s advocates Linda and Paul Blanchet (second and third from left) with Society staff (from left) Maria Przydatek, Rebecca Morris, Barbara Lindsay, Elizabeth Sawatzky.
Last fall, the Alzheimer Society of B.C. formally launched the Dementia-Friendly Communities initiative. This program is part of a larger social movement that began in Japan. The aim of the initiative is to develop a heightened awareness of dementia and reduce stigma so that we are all better positioned to support people living with dementia as they try to stay engaged in our communities. Communities can be big, like a municipality or profession, or small like a community centre or cultural group.
Over the last year the Society has worked with municipalities, Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs), professional groups and the general public on this exciting new initiative building a more dementia-friendly B.C. This year:
- The B.C. Legislature became the first dementia-friendly legislature in Canada.
- The Society partnered with several MLAs to plan or deliver Dementia Friends education in local constituency offices.
- The B.C. Ministry of Health became the first dementia-friendly Ministry in Canada through education held in Victoria.
- The Society launched “Making your workplace dementia friendly: Information for legal professionals,” “Making your workplace dementia friendly: Information for housing professionals ” and “Making your workplace dementia friendly: Information for financial professionals.”
- The Society delivered education to municipal councils in New Westminster, Valemount, Dawson Creek and Sicamous and to a number of groups of city employees across the province.
- The Society partnered with several cultural and faith groups to deliver education to interested members.
- Over 670 people received in-person Dementia Friends education.
Our Provincial Advisory Group, a collaborative of leaders in health, policy and research, as well as two leadership groups – one comprised of people with dementia; the other of caregivers – supported and informed our activities in this first ambitious year of the initiative.
All dementia-friendly communities rely on Dementia Friends, individuals who take a little bit of time to learn how to recognize that someone has dementia and how to respond in a respectful, effective way. In June 2015, the national Dementia Friends Canada awareness campaign was officially launched by the federal Minister of Health Rona Ambrose, in partnership with Alzheimer Societies across Canada. Several Canadian mayors and MPs signed up as the first Dementia Friends. The goal is to sign up 1 million Canadians by July 1, 2017. To learn more about this campaign or to become a Dementia Friend, visit the website www.dementiafriends.ca. You can also contact [email protected] to learn about organizing an in-person education session for your community.