As the UK population’s average age increases, so does the number of dementia cases, with Alzheimer’s being the most common cause. As the condition becomes more prominent the need to take care of those with it becomes ever more pressing. However, due to the nature of the illness it can be a very difficult situation to manage and requires more than just medication. A method of treatment that could benefit patients is through the use of communities, but how might this be achieved?
Taking Inspiration from Abroad
One way that communities could make life more accommodating for those with dementia is by taking inspiration from initiatives that are in place abroad. One such initiative is how Japan are adapting to their ageing population and the barriers of dementia.
In 2015 the Japanese government released what was know as the Orange plan. This was a set of measures that aimed to evolved care for those with dementia that went beyond medication. These measures increased the involvement of communities to help support the ever-growing elderly population. By increasing awareness of the growing problem, towns and cities have adapted in numerous ways. Dementia drop-in areas – such as cafes – have been set up, technology is used to help lost individuals, services have become more accommodating, and lectures are offered for residents to become ‘dementia supporters’.
This has led to everyday residents being better equipped to help those in need. For example, instances where people have encountered elderly pedestrians wandering dangerously have been diffused due to having better knowledge about how to keep them calm. This can then allow time for police and medical professionals to come and help. By adapting the community and increasing social support, dementia patients can be safer and less anxious about their feelings of confusion.
Could Britain’s Communities Adapt Like This?
The prospect of communities coming together to better prepare for dementia cases is certainly a positive one, but the approach of a Japanese population and a British one is very different. Many may think the more individualist nature of British society would not be as capable at implementing a wide scale community care plan when compared to a collectivist society like Japan. But there is plenty to suggest that this wouldn’t be the case.
On a smaller, localised scale there are already examples of how British communities have come together to help vulnerable members within it. One such example is how artist, Yemi Owosile teamed up with Thornwood Care Home in Bexhill-On-Sea to engage and communicate with dementia patients. By using digital embroidery as a means of socialising the residents of Thornwood could use their skills to comfortably interact, rather than conventional conversation.
This use of a group initiative could hold the potential to be a first step towards a wider community project to help those with dementia. By raising awareness of the need to improve dementia care from a social perspective the ideas and sentiments of projects like those at Thornwood can be spread throughout they community. This can then make dementia care more effective on daily basis throughout various communities, rather than just through dedicated organisations. And with an ageing population the need to do so could not be more imperative.