BLOG: “When one in three of us could have dementia, our home city needs to be a place that helps and allows all of us to live well “
Jack Coutts, co-ordinator for the Liverpool City Region’s Dementia Action Week events programme, sets out what a dementia friendly Liverpool would look like and why it matters.
What people with dementia need – and increasingly demand – is that the world which is shaped and run with the fit and able in mind, should also make the additional effort to take their circumstances into account. As it stands, the world can be an unfriendly place, which excludes a growing section of the population.
It’s often said that if a place is designed and managed to be dementia-friendly, then it will also be good for people with other needs. For example, a “take your time” check-out lane in a supermarket where people with dementia can feel unhurried, while they take longer to sort out money for payment – works equally well for anyone who needs more patience for whatever reason, whether they’re older, living with a disability, have a sensory impairment, or they’re a flustered young parent with three fractious children in tow.
The top priority to address this has to be improving awareness of dementia: what it is, how it affects people, how best to be helpful. Shop assistants, bus drivers, call centre workers, police officers – if they have little or no understanding of dementia – how can they know how to respond to the confusion and difficulties that the condition can cause?
As a “hidden disability”, dementia isn’t immediately obvious to the average person, so neither are the needs that can arise from it, such as an urgency to access a toilet.
In Liverpool, an impressive range of retail businesses and public sector organisations have recognised the social imperative – and commercial value – of working to become dementia-friendly and they provide training for their staff on a regular basis. Some also review their employment policies to make sure they support and don’t discriminate against employees who may also be carers. Many have joined and are active within Liverpool Dementia Action Alliance which has 93 member organisations.
The next focus should be on internal and external environments which can be problematic for anyone with mobility, or sensory challenges. How dementia impacts perception is less well recognised – for example, interpreting a dark rug as a possible hole in the floor – and also the importance of carefully designed and positioned signage. Some of our buildings and outdoor spaces look spectacular, but can be a nightmare to navigate for someone with dementia. Architects, designers and building managers are starting to get the message but more needs to be done.
Finally – and most crucially – in all aspects of public provision, Liverpool must aim to ensure inclusion and empowerment for people with dementia. To have maximum access to life opportunities, to be as independent, in control and self-reliant as possible, to feel valued and respected as members of the wider community – that’s what people with dementia would like to see in a truly Dementia Friendly Liverpool.
Dementia Action Week is taking place from 17-23 May, offering a wide variety of online sessions – including awareness, advice and support, music and singing, fitness and much more – for anyone with any interest in dementia.