What is the first word that you think of when you hear the word ‘dementia’? ‘Old’, ‘forgetful’, ‘senile’? These stereotypes reflect how society views dementia and just how much fear and misunderstanding is still associated with it.
The stigma and discrimination people with dementia and their families face affects every aspect of their lives. This can range from feeling isolated and lonely because friends have stopped visiting, to facing violence, ostracism and aggression in some parts of the world.
Now think of words, or better still actions, that can break the stigma and make the world a better place for the 47 million people living with dementia globally. You might think of ‘rights’, ‘support’ and ‘acceptance’.
Dementia Friends, pioneered by Alzheimer’s Society and inspired by a similar programme in Japan, is a social movement challenging individuals, businesses, and whole communities to take action and change the way people think, act and talk about dementia. We recently asked people in the UK living with dementia or supporting loved ones, ‘how can the world become more dementia friendly?’ Their answers were overwhelmingly positive:
“The world can become more dementia friendly, with the emphasis on ‘can’ because it can be done, as long as everyone starts working together” said Chris Roberts from North Wales who has been living with a dementia diagnosis for five years.
To truly make our world dementia friendly, we need to work together across international borders to support and nurture emerging dementia-friendly movements. We also need to support and encourage the work of governments, civil society, researchers and the World Health Organisation to uphold the rights and needs of people with dementia and recognise it as a public health priority. Forging partnerships and working together to challenge the stigma is at the heart of the Global Alzheimer’s & Dementia Action Alliance, a network of international charities seeking to champion global action on dementia.
Earlier this month, GADAA Chair and Alzheimer’s Society CEO Jeremy Hughes took the voices of people living with dementia to governments, voluntary organisations, academics and businesses at a G7 side event organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Japan. Here he also delivered a special Dementia Friends session for WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan, in collaboration with Japanese partners and with the support of the UK Department of Health and Japan’s Ministry of Health, Welfare & Labour.
Chris Roberts’ closing words particularly resonated with the global audience, “If you get it right for dementia you get it right for everybody.”
Now that is surely a common goal the world can embrace.
Watch the Alzheimer’s Society film, How Can the World Become More Dementia Friendly?