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2015: Is Europe becoming more dementia friendly?

Development of the DFC movement in the country

Discussions about the concept DFC and how it could be integrated into the Irish context were held by the Alzheimer Society of Ireland (ASI) between the end of 2011 and early 2012. Supported by funding from the Atlantic Philanthropies, the ASI embarked on the development of a Dementia Friendly Communities initiative.  This initiative focuses on improving the inclusion and quality of life of people with dementia and their families.  So far seven communities have been involved in Co Donegal, Galway city, Ballina/Killaloe in Co Clare, Mallow in Co Cork, Callan in Co Kilkenny, Cavan town and Co Wicklow.  

Another aspect of the work has been supporting a number of organisations across Ireland through a series of small awards to undertake and promote dementia friendly projects. The awards have been used to support organisations, arts and cultural institutions, local groups and neighbourhoods to play their part in making their community more ‘dementia-friendly’.

In addition, the HSE & Genio [1] Dementia Programme, with support from the Atlantic Philanthropies and the Health Service Executive (HSE), is developing and testing new service models which aim to improve the range and quality of community-based supports for people with dementia. The high level aim of the programme is to develop and test a range of personalised, flexible and responsive supports and services and to demonstrate how these supports enable people with dementia to live full lives in their community for as long as possible.  

This approach is aligned with government policy, which emphasises the provision of services which support people to remain at home, living full lives for as long as possible, and supporting families and local communities in this goal. There are three main components to this work. Firstly, sites which are developing community based supports for people with dementia, with projects based in Cork (Mallow & Kinsale), Dublin, Kilkenny, Leitrim, Louth, Mayo, Roscommon & Tipperary. The second component is focused on the development of integrated care pathways in acute hospitals for people with dementia, with projects based in Connolly Hospital Dublin, St. James’s Hospital Dublin and Mercy Hospital Cork. The third component supports the implementation of the National Dementia Strategy. This part of the programme builds on the learning from the earlier phases and includes support to develop eight consortia to enhance the integration of services for people with dementia. These consortia will be based in Dublin North, Dublin North city, Dublin South West, Dublin South East, Waterford, Cork, Limerick and Galway. Development of these consortia will commence on a phased basis at the end of 2015 and into 2016 ( for further information).

The Dementia Elevator is also working towards making Ireland a more dementia-friendly country. The programme has been developed by Dublin City University and the Health Service Executive, and is supported by the Atlantic Philanthropies. The main aim of the Elevator is to help individuals, communities and health systems engage appropriately with people with dementia. 

 Among other relevant DF activities, they have developed dementia awareness training programmes for the general public, dementia training programmes for customer-facing services and an educational dementia programme for health and social care workers. The Elevator is collaborating with Wicklow Dementia Friendly, who are working with retailers in Arklow. The training aims to give retailers the skills and tools to support their customers with dementia.

Understandings of DFC in the country

The ASI vision for DFC “is to reconfigure the communities that we all live in and mainstream dementia into everyday life of that community.  The vision is to involve all the stakeholders and members of the community to be dementia friendly”. Main objectives of a DFC include:

  • Identify the key partners, services, activities and businesses within any given community to develop a local map of the people and the place.
  • Engage with the key stakeholders by increasing their knowledge and understanding of dementia to ensure that it becomes part of the local agenda.
  • Challenge the stigma, myths and misconceptions around dementia by opening the channels of communication and removing the barriers to change.
  • Work with local services and businesses to make the community a dynamic and friendly place for people with dementia, their carers, families and friends to live and work in.
  • Work together to increase the opportunities for people with dementia and their carers to remain engaged in their chosen activities of life for as long as they wish to.

Steps to build a DFC in the country

In Ireland, the Alzheimer Society of Ireland (ASI) is playing a significant role in providing leadership on the DFCs initiative in terms of educating the internal and external stakeholders. The ASI works as a leader and a conduit for bringing together the players, laying the groundwork and providing the personnel and the resources to implement the project. A key aspect is the existence of a lead agency or organisation working in collaboration locally so that a number of partners come together to plan and develop a DFC so as to ensure sustainability after initial funding ceases.

The ASI established a DFC National Steering Group that draws on the expertise of specialists in relevant domains regarding strategy, implementation, service user perspective, policy and the future development of DFC.  The role of the National Steering Group is to contribute to a number of aspects of the work: advise on the strategic direction and development of the DFC model, share learning and expertise with other key stakeholders and provide support to the project leader in the implementation of the initiative, where appropriate.  Membership of the National Steering Group is comprised of key experts from the various stakeholder groups. 

The ASI is committed to developing an ongoing toolkit of resources that can be used by each of the DFC projects (and others working in this area) to support them in their work.  This toolkit is informed by the needs of the projects and developed throughout the lifespan of the initiative.  Communities working towards becoming dementia friendly are also encouraged to develop educational tools (i.e. produce an information product that explains the initiative and how people can get involved).  A comprehensive DFC toolkit will be produced at the end of the lifespan of the initiative which will be based on the learning and evaluation of the projects in order to roll out the initiative in other locations.

Dementia-friendly symbols

No single symbol or logo in use in the country. The Alzheimer Society of Ireland has developed a logo (see below) for the DFCs that it is supporting to use with the material they are producing and the organisations that are working towards becoming dementia friendly.

Measuring and monitoring progress

The DFC projects supported by the ASI complete a monitoring tool every six months. The project coordinator periodically visits the projects and provides them with ongoing support in a variety of ways.  The monitoring tool aims to describe and capture the outcomes for people with dementia, their families and the community from each of the DFC projects.  Through the monitoring tool ASI aims to ensure that DFC can be replicated and sustained into the future and the model will be based on these projects’ experience. 

The projects come together three times per year to participate in a DFC Learning Forum to share the learning among all projects and also those working and with an interest in this area to network with a wider interest group.  The real success of them has been the networking aspect where the participants have an opportunity to learn and share from each other.

Examples of DFC in the country

Crystal Project – Mallow, Co Cork

Timescale: Sept 2013 – Dec 2015

Funding €20,000 

The Crystal Project aims to make Mallow a dementia friendly town by increasing awareness about dementia and reducing the stigma surrounding it.  The Crystal project is made up of The Alzheimer Society of Ireland, HSE, family carers, UCC and the GPs in Mallow Primary Health Centre.

The project delivers a number of activities through specific aims:

1. Supporting those diagnosed with dementia to stay active within their communities:

A volunteer befriending service will facilitate people to stay active within their community.

2. Supporting families throughout their caring giving journey:

Through the provision of family carer training programmes 

3. Increasing awareness about dementia and reducing stigma within the community: Through public information evenings; a library project; a series of articles on dementia in the local newspaper; an educational programme through the local schools and information sessions for local businesses.

Wicklow Dementia Friendly

Timescale: Sept 2013 – Dec 2015

Funding €20,000 

By creating a Wicklow Dementia Friendly (WDF), this project wants to remove the barriers people face around lack of knowledge within communities through targeted education awareness raising activities.  People with the power to bring about change are given the knowledge needed to ground their practice and interaction in a dementia friendly way.

WDF aims to increase awareness of dementia and reduce stigma, and look at ways in which communities, neighbours, friends and everyday service providers (such as retailers, banks, Gardai, health services) can support people with dementia to carry on, as normally as they can, for as long as possible. Like everyone else, people with dementia want to go out, do their shopping, pursue hobbies and interests and make use of local facilities like leisure centres, golf clubs and libraries.

The project aims to build awareness and understanding of dementia at every level of society.  The project will be informed about the barriers to living well with dementia by people living with a diagnosis themselves.  Workshops are delivered throughout the county.  Those participating include: GPs, Pharmacists, Dentists, Retailers, Leisure, Sports and Social Clubs.

People with dementia are involved in the planning of activities, they work with WDF to guide and inform the projects. The project is developing the idea of Dementia Friends to support people going about daily activities (working on this in Arklow for 2015).

The Project has developed good linkages throughout the county – The Working Group consists of Older Peoples Network and HSE Manager of Older Peoples Services / Old Age Psychiatry Service – Psychiatrist has also joined the WG. Numerous organisations at a local level are committed and are involved with WDF.

Dementia Aware Donegal:

Timescale: Sept 2013 – Dec 2015

Funding €25,000 

Dementia Aware Donegal work very closely with a number of statutory and voluntary organisations across the county. It links with community groups in terms of planning dementia initiatives in local areas. It provides support and training to enable community groups to link and encourage people with dementia and their families to be involved in local activities.

It has linked in with local organisations to provide a befriending service and support volunteers in areas of a very large county where transport is an issue.

The project has carried out a range of training to family carers; training for potential volunteers; linked with schools and youth groups to provide training for young people and have also participated in a young carers group which has been developed across Donegal. The project has also trained both health professionals and academics to support people to be more dementia aware and also linked into the project in terms of information and advice about supporting people with dementia to live well in their communities.

The project has participated in local structures developed across the county in terms of Age Friendly County and also public participation networks which link local community organisations.



Last Updated: Monday 18 July 2016


  • Acknowledgements

    This Yearbook received funding under an operating grant from the European Union’s Health Programme (2014–2020)
  • European Union