Next week is Dementia Awareness Week. If you are running an event that may be attended by people with dementia, here are some factors to take into consideration:
Provide good, clear information prior to the event to allow attendees to plan their day in advance. When talking to people:
- Make and maintain eye contact
- Be approachable
- Let them take their time
- Talk to both the person with dementia and their carer
These, and other points, can be found in the Alzheimer’s Society’s Guide for customer service staff.
The Dementia Engagement and Empowerment Project have written a guide for choosing dementia-friendly meeting spaces. Key considerations include the use of well-lit spaces with plenty of seating and clearly marked routes into and around the venue.
Ideally, the venue should not be too busy and it should have step-free access. There may not be much you can do about some problematic features (reflective floor surfaces, changes in floor colours or large swirly patterns, lots of mirrors etc.), however, friendly and well-placed staff can compensate for many environmental and design problems.
Other things to consider
The aim should be to create a relaxed environment, so it is a good idea to include refreshments and, where applicable, to have smaller group sizes.
The Dementia Care Matters 36 Point Checklist for museums and libraries includes some other ideas that would be relevant for many different types of events. These include:
- Promoting your event locally as dementia-friendly (both to inform people with dementia and to raise awareness in general)
- Creating community networks to find out what people with dementia and their family/friends want and need from the event
- Ensuring all staff are aware of the importance of both verbal and non-verbal communication
- Making use of engaging/interactive activities
Some case studies
- Museums: Reminiscence projects have become increasingly popular, and one such project exists at The Museum of Oxford: “The activities offer a supportive, creative environment, a chance to socialise and make friends, opportunities to share memories and contribute to exhibitions and archives and have great fun.”
- Cinemas: Oxford’s Ultimate Picture Palace, partnered by Creative Dementia Arts Network, has launched a programme of films for people with dementia and their carers: “Throughout our Dementia Friendly Screenings the house lights will be left on low, the sound will be slightly lowered and the audience will be free to walk around, talk and even sing along if the mood takes.”
- Dementia-friendly communities: The ideas mentioned above should be incorporated into everyday life, not just special events, and in that respect they belong to the work of the wider campaign to create ‘dementia-friendly communities’. These communities are places that are given public recognition and support by the Alzheimer’s Society for the steps they have taken to become more inclusive of people with dementia, thereby helping people to continue with everyday activities:
“We know that people with dementia and their carers often feel unable to join in with, or make any contribution to, their local community. Faced with a lack of support or understanding, many give up things they love to do out of anxiety, fear or lack of confidence and slowly withdraw behind their own four walls.” (Philly Hare. Dementia Friendly Yorkshire: First steps on the journey)
The above quote comes from the foreword to a collection of 20 case studies, compiled by The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, to provide examples of some of the grassroots dementia-friendly work that is happening across Yorkshire. These examples range from making train travel simpler and training shop staff to changing the way legal services are provided and rethinking hospital wards.
- How to help people with dementia: A guide for customer-facing staff (Alzheimer’s Society)
- Choosing a dementia-friendly meeting place and other guides (The Dementia Engagement and Empowerment Project)
- Museums and Libraries – welcoming people living with a dementia and their families/friends: The 36 Point Checklist (Dementia Care Matters)
- Museum of Oxford Reminiscence Project
- Dementia-friendly screenings at the Ultimate Picture Palace
- Dementia-friendly communities (Alzheimer’s Society)
- Dementia-Friendly Yorkshire: First steps on the journey (Joseph Rowntree Foundation)