For those diagnosed with dementia, experiencing a sense of isolation within their community is one the biggest barriers they face. The social stigma surrounding the disease can result in the family and friends of some patients distancing themselves. As dementia patients typically grow increasingly more dependent and vulnerable as their condition worsens, this scenario becomes one of great concern.
According to a survey by Fight Dementia, 57% of dementia patients limit their activity within their community because they are afraid of getting lost. A startling 48% indicate that they have difficulty communicating with staff in stores, and 25% observe that people seem awkward or tense around them because of their diagnosis.
With Australia tipped to have almost 900,000 people suffering with dementia by 2050, it is essential that all communities explore new ways to enhance the experiences of dementia patients within their community.
Alzheimer’s Australia has created a new toolkit that has been developed to assist local councils to make their communities more dementia friendly. The toolkit was produced in collaboration with more than half of all Victorian councils, and is divided into three key sections. These sections are:
- Create a climate for change
- Engage with colleagues and the community
- Implement and sustain change
With these steps in mind, how can we better include dementia patients?
Firstly, communities should encourage businesses to designate specific resources that aim to create safe spaces for those with dementia. For example, some supermarkets offer allocated check-outs for people with disabilities in order to give them more time and reduce pressure. Furthermore, these support systems allow patients to comfortably go about their typical daily routine and remain embedded within the community.
Next, communities should endeavour to increase public education by sharing effective ways to communicate and care for a patient with dementia. Dementia patients are susceptible to displaying a range of behaviours; ranging from erratic and persistent behaviour, severe depression, unpredictable outbursts or mood swings, a lack of inhibition and possible suicidal tendencies. By creating a public program that teaches members of the community to treat each dementia patient with dignity and offering them social activities, a strong network can be formed that helps turn understanding into action.
The Strengthening Dementia Services conference, taking place in Melbourne this October, will examine reforms and policies for competitive dementia care. Book your place by August 19th to save $300 on ticket prices.