Thursday, 5 May 2016

Dementia Supportive Communities event - the North

Karen Rodenburg, Dementia Friendly Communities Coordinator, North Powys
In November last year I attended an excellent Dementia Supportive Communities event in Brecon, South Powys. Last week it was the turn of the North. Thanks to the hard work of Ageing Well in Wales, Alzheimer’s Society, and Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations we had the opportunity to find out more about some truly inspiring initiatives already taking place. And by the end of the day people were asking not just – what has been done already, but what can we, what can I do, to make my bit of Powys a more dementia supportive (or friendly) community? The seed has been sown!

Read on to find out how the day - “Working Together to Make a Difference” - unfolded.

Carl Cooper, Chief Executive Officer at PAVO, set the context for the day, explaining that the new Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act requires us to work with people and communities to address matters that are important to them, and dementia is very much part of that agenda as it touches the lives of so many people. Whilst much is already happening, Carl asked if the voluntary sector could work alongside the public and private sectors in a more effective and efficient way.

Steve Huxton of Ageing Well in Wales, and Carl Cooper, CEO at PAVO
Next up was Councillor Dawn Bailey, the Powys County Council Dementia Champion. Partnership working was also one of Dawn’s key messages. After touching on the history of the Dementia Supportive Community, and the need to treat everyone as an individual with specific needs, she outlined the council’s plans. These include moving to a creative approach, providing more community based services, and ensuring these are the best services possible given the reduced resources available. Dawn said that this will require culture change, both within staff and general populations, where everyone gets involved. What we need is a grassroots approach from the bottom up. The council’s aim for Powys to become a DFC will be formalized in the Dementia Mission statement soon to be adopted.

Councillor Dawn Bailey, PCC Dementia Champion
Steve Huxton, Network Coordinator of Ageing Well in Wales, followed by telling us that 45,000 people in Wales live with dementia and under half have received a formal diagnosis. People of all ages will be affected, directly or indirectly, through the experience of family and friends. He went on to outline what we mean by a Dementia Supportive Community:
  • It listens to people’s needs. 
  • It is patient and understanding. 
  • It engages with businesses and local organisations. 
  • It makes changes with people, rather than providing services for them. 
The concept has benefits to all of us, not just people with dementia, and has blossomed into a social movement throughout Wales.

Karen Rodenburg, Dementia Friendly Communities Coordinator in North Powys,
had literally just started when I attended the event in the South. Since then she has been extremely busy helping to set up DSCs across the North.

Karen explained that through this initiative we can help people to live well in their own homes and play an active role in their communities. Her presentation included local updates, case studies around partnership working, and outlined the mechanics of how to go about taking those first small steps to setting up a DSC in the first place. The roadmap (above) provides a snapshot of some of the key actions a community can then take to “empower people with dementia to have high aspirations, confidence and know they can contribute.”

Heather Wenban, Project Development Officer in Dementia Care at Powys Teaching Health Board then spoke on “Creating dementia friendly hospitals.” She touched on everything from the Butterfly Scheme, to colour and tonal contrast in the physical environment, with references to liaison nurses, specialised training, digital technology and dementia pathways along the way.

Dr Shirley Evans, Senior Research Fellow at the Association for Dementia Studies at the University of Worcester, described a research project on dementia friendly meeting places. The initiative, developed by the University of Amsterdam, brought health, social care and voluntary organisations together to create a community based club in an ordinary life setting. The pilot was so successful that it is now being replicated throughout several European countries, with Droitwich Spa hosting the first club in the UK. A second, more rural example, has just opened in Leominster. It will be particularly interesting to observe how this develops as it could more readily be applied to a Powys setting.

Rhiannon Davies, Co-chair of Brecon Dementia Friendly Community, followed, talking us through the history, starting in 2012, of the first DSC in Wales. The inspirational work that is being carried out in Brecon is now a model to other communities across Wales, as we found out during Dementia Awareness Week 2015. Rhiannon said that the most important thing that they had learnt in Brecon was the importance of action. No matter how inspired or committed people are, it is “how you walk the talk that counts”. She added that BDFC is open to sharing resources and experiences in supporting other DSCs to develop and grow.

Julia Llewellyn Roberts from KINDA with Carla Rosenthal (PAVO Participation Officer, mental health team)
There followed updates from some of the more recently developed DSCs in Powys. Each had its own quite individual origins and story depending particularly on who had initiated that all important “action” that Rhiannon had spoken about.

Julia Llewellyn Roberts – KINDA (Knighton Initiative for Dementia Action)

Julia had been inspired after hearing that Liverpool planned to become a DSC and in 2014 pulled together some key local organisations from which the steering group grew. KINDA now has alliances with the Royal Voluntary Service, Community Support, Men’s Sheds, primary schools and the Carer’s Trust

Nic Williams – LOUDA (Llandrindod Opens up to Dementia Awareness)

Nic, who is a Wellbeing Coordinator at Mid Powys Mind, was inspired at one of Rhiannon’s Dementia Friend sessions. She is currently fundraising whilst promoting the concept to cafes and hotels in the town, and has already involved the town council and Vanessa Garwood of Alzheimer’s Society.

Robert Robinson – Dementia Friendly Welshpool

As the Town Council Clerk in Welshpool, Robert was originally approached by Karen Rodenburg to consider how the town might become dementia friendly. In the short-term the new steering group is being chaired by the town council, which also provides support including secretariat, banking account, insurance, a website and use of a building. Karen has provided dementia friendly sessions for all the councilors and many of the staff too.

Councillor Kath Roberts-Jones & Councillor Stephen Hayes, PCC Portfolio Holder Health & Social Care
Workshops followed the presentations, and on our tables we all looked at how we could work to make our own communities more dementia friendly, taking into account potential barriers whilst suggesting areas of help and support. What impressed upon me was the sheer number of links we had just on our table of five people, into the third, statutory and private sectors, and also each of us into our own communities. We all agreed that as a first step it was important that we find out about becoming a Dementia Friend, and encourage colleagues, family and friends to do the same.

Freda Lacey, Senior Officer Health & Social Care at PAVO, also asked us to consider the potential value of a Powys-wide Dementia Forum or Network. There followed a lively discussion about the purpose, membership and location of such a network. No decisions have yet been made, but the feedback has been gathered, and Carl explained that in partnership with Powys County Council, Powys Teaching Health Board and other agencies all the comments will be taken on board. So, watch this space for further updates!

What do you think? Would you like to see a Powys-wide Dementia Network? And how would it work best for you? Are you setting up a Dementia Supportive Community in your area? Let us know in the comments box below.

A dementia sensory box - for stimulating conversation and reminiscing

Small changes help make a dementia friendly community – 
an Alzheimer’s Society video we watched during the day.

The event was supported by Powys Teaching Health Board, 
Powys County Council and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

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