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New tool in development to review the impact of dementia-friendly communities

Wednesday 23 May 2018

On 23 May, the Guardian published an article by Claire Goodman who is professor in healthcare research at the University of Hertfordshire conducting research on the impact of dementia-friendly communities.

The University of Hertfordshire currently works in partnership with the University of East Anglia and the University of Cambridge to develop an evaluation tool aiming to review strengths and challenges of dementia friendly-communities. The National Institute for Health Research funds the research leading to the development of the tool since 2017.

Dementia-friendly communities raise awareness of dementia and support engagement with the topic as well as people affected by the condition. Their aim is to support inclusion as well as participation. Currently, the Alzheimer’s Society has listed 263 communities - that exist in the UK alone - on their website.

The team of researchers conducted a couple of activities in order to develop and refine the tool. First, they compared the prevalence of dementia in the different communities. In addition, they reviewed activities and offers. Now the scientists are surveying people affected by dementia to assess their point of view on the impact of living in the community.

Apart from that, Claire Goodman also reported, that they organised a recent consultation event on early findings and the proposed tool which she mentioned raised interesting challenges and questions.

Further, she reported that the consultation revealed consensus on indicators of a “successful” dementia-friendly community.
 Participants agreed that the community should provide available access to activities for people at all stages of living with dementia. There was also agreement that those activities should be designed and organised involving people affected by dementia.

Other aspects of success included:

-       strong local political support for dementia friendliness  and access to funding

-       positive everyday encounters with neighbours and others, for example schoolchildren, postal workers, the police or bus drivers.

-       an environment that assures people they would be listened to, valued, given time and opportunities to be involved and not defined by their diagnosis

-       local systems and services anticipating what people with dementia might need, so they are able to go to a concert or the cinema, watch sport, eat out, vote, travel, see the general practitioner (and not be penalised if an appointment is forgotten), and access advice about money and care.

At the end of her article she stressed, that there cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach. They are therefore refining and testing the evaluation tool in six very different dementia-friendly communities.