Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Dementia Friendly Villages are the future + Corbridge is leading the way

Corbridge is on course to become Northumberland’s first dementia-friendly community as part of a nationwide initiative being rolled out by the Alzheimer’s Society.

Focusing on improving the inclusion and quality of life of people with dementia, the scheme requires the participation of local residents, traders and key public figures, such as police officers and bus drivers. Crucially, it means people affected by the condition are not afraid to seek help from members of their own community. They can go about their daily business, including tasks such as shopping, banking and using public transport, knowing that if they become forgetful and confused, the people around them will be supportive and understanding.
The statistics locally need to be understood to gauge the huge issue we face locally:

In Northumberland around 4,690 people currently live with dementia
This figure is expected to rise to around 6,250 by 2021.
The project’s ultimate aim is to raise awareness and increase understanding of the illness.

Amy Syron-Mallenby, The Alzheimer’s Society business development officer for Northumberland, said: “A dementia-friendly community is a city, town or village where people with dementia are understood, respected, supported, and confident they can contribute to community life. There are simple steps communities can take towards becoming dementia-friendly, as well as launching the new symbol that communities can use to show they are committed to making changes.

The steps range from challenging stigma to including people with dementia in local life and highlighting the importance of accessible transport and businesses that are respectful and responsive; elsewhere in Northumberland, support is also being harnessed to help Hexham and Berwick become designated dementia-friendly communities.

In Corbridge, the project has been driven by parish councillor Melvyn Stone, who has already undergone training with the charity to become a dementia friend. These are volunteers who are prepared to turn their understanding of dementia into practical action.

Coun. Stone explained:
“In Corbridge, we are already doing a number of things as a village which ensure dementia sufferers are firmly part of the community. We have a drop-in centre, the Florence Hope activity club, which takes place in the parish hall twice a week. We also now have a weekly walking group with between nine to 12 trained walk leaders we can call upon to lead walks in the local area suitable for people with dementia. We adapt them to suit the person’s physical fitness and it means they can be accompanied by their carers out in the fresh air, or their carer, particularly if it’s a husband or wife, can go into the village and have a coffee or enjoy a bit of a break.”

The assisted walking group was developed from a core of interested volunteers who originally met through the West Northumberland Health Walks programme, run by North Country Leisure. They have since won £2,000 of grant funding in their own right and plan to get 2014’s walking programme underway in April.
“I’ve also had a meeting with at least nine of the village’s traders who all registered their interest in supporting the initiative and have since undergone training,” said Coun. Stone.
The next step for the traders is to sign up to displaying a dementia-friendly logo within their premises to provide an extra level of reassurance that they are on board.

It is also hoped a music workshop can be established where people of all ages and abilities can get together on a regular basis to enjoy their chosen instrument.
Coun. Stone said: “It’s been inspired by one of the village’s residents who plays the recorder particularly well and came to me, as chairman of the parish hall management committee, to see if we could set something up.”
Corbridge Women’s Institute has offered to support the venture by providing St Andrew’s church cottage in the village as a base for the gathering. “I don’t have anyone in my family that has suffered from dementia or any particular personal story,” said Coun. Stone, “But I feel lucky enough to live in one of the nicest and friendliest towns in the country, among people who are very proactive and willing to do their bit.
“Corbridge is a lovely, friendly, close-knit community so our village is the ideal place to be a shining beacon for dementia-friendly communities, so people with dementia can enjoy their surroundings for as long as possible.”

“It is more common in people over 65, but I’ve learned through my training that there are more than 400 different types of dementia and it’s such a complex condition. It’s happening to more and more people in front of our eyes and it’s important that we address it and do everything we can to help those suffering from it. I suppose I’m interested in dementia because so many people are not interested, but I get a feeling that people in Corbridge are ready to change things for the better. Because of all the criteria we already meet and the steps we are undertaking, Corbridge qualified in just 48 hours to begin working to become a dementia-friendly village.”

Melvyn is preparing to embark on more training which will allow him to become a designated dementia friends champion, enabling him to deliver information sessions and training to other local volunteers.
Last September, The Alzheimer’s Society launched a report Building Dementia-friendly Communities: a priority for everyone, which revealed less than half of people living with dementia feel a part of their community.

An economic analysis commissioned by the charity shows that building a network of dementia-friendly communities could save £11,000 per person, per year by helping people with dementia to remain independent and stay out of care for longer. Amy, who has been working alongside Coun. Stone, said: “To create a dementia-friendly community we need to bring together every part of the Corbridge community from health services, social care, transport, businesses, charities and voluntary groups, emergency services and local people. Thanks to Melvyn we are heading in the right direction.”

For further details about The Alzheimer’s Society, contact the charity’s Hexham office on (01434) 607318.
If you wish to become a dementia friend or would like to help with the initiative in Corbridge, contact Melvyn Stone on 07803 955148 or e-mail m.stone113@btinternet .com