Become a Dementia Friend to support those in need
IT DOESN'T take a lot to be a Dementia Friend, just a little education, awareness, and a change of mindset.
Central Coast Dementia Alliance chair Jodi Livesley is proud of what the group has been able to achieve in little over 12 months since its inception.
Already, CCDA's Community Action Plan has been recognised by Dementia Australia with the Central Coast included on its map of Dementia-friendly Communities.
Now the group is encouraging Coast residents to play their part by visiting the website dementiafriendly.org.au, watching the informational videos and registering to become a Dementia Friend.
"It doesn't have to be formalised training, it's gaining that valuable insight, and understanding what the world might look like through the eyes of someone living with dementia - the barriers they face, their day-to-day experiences and different aspects of life it affects," Jodi said.
"We would love for the Central Coast to have the highest population of Dementia Friends across the country."
The aim, Jodi said, was to support people with dementia to live a high- quality life with dignity, meaning, purpose and value in their community, and to ensure they were treated with respect, care and empathy.
Jodi stressed the importance of inclusion, and people living with dementia continuing to be "active participants in their own lives" as well as having appropriate services available.
"People with dementia want to be accepted for their individuality, their value to family and community and their retained capacities, and not be defined by their condition," she said.
Each dementia-friendly community will look different, but may include businesses that provide accessible services, including staff who know how to communicate effectively with people living with dementia.
"With a little bit of knowledge and compassion, we can support people in making situations better which may be awkward or confusing for them... just having someone to walk beside them and reassure them can have a huge impact."
As an example, Westfield Tuggerah has established a Quiet Hour each Tuesday from 10.30-11.30am, when the centre dims lights and music, and keeps shop noise to a minimum to provide a more relaxed atmosphere for people living with dementia and others affected by sensory input.
Thanks to Ability Links, Westfield Tuggerah also hires sensory headphone kits, and Event Cinemas has developed adult sensory screenings as part of its Quiet Hour offering.
"It's phenomenal, and they have had a wonderful response," Jodi said.
When it comes to jobs, dementia-friendly employers can provide support to keep people in paid employment and in volunteer positions for as long as possible, allowing them to continue to thrive in the working environment.
Socially, the possibility of memory cafes is being investigated, but choirs, sporting and social groups can also be welcoming and inclusive of members living with dementia.
"People who have a purpose, are engaged and socially connected have a far better outcome than those who become embarrassed, disconnected and isolated," Jodi said.
The CCDA is also engaging with primary schools to implement programs to help children better understand dementia and support grandparents who may be experiencing it.
It also recently held the Coast's first clinical dementia forum, attended by about 140 local health and community professionals, learning about the latest research, timely assessment and diagnosis, the lived experience, response strategies and risk reduction.
"The CCDA is a group of really passionate people and I am really excited and proud of what we have been able to achieve and the things we are working to achieve... we have big world aims," Jodi said.
The Coast group has been so successful that it is now helping other areas to implement their own Dementia-friendly Action Plans.
For more, and go to dementia.org.au or phone 1800100500, or phone Jodi on 0429075430.