History of Dementia Friends Australia : Charleville Mayor leads the way toward a making her town a Dementia Friendly Place
On 7th July, 2016, I facilitated a Creativity and Dementia workshop in Charlevillle. I’d been in touch with Mayor Annie Liston beforehand, knowing from previous experience, if you give her a good idea, or show her a better way of doing something, she is tireless and inspiring, in making it happen. Such was the case when I spoke to her about my belief that in Charleville, Annie would immediately grasp the value of the concept of Dementia Friends and with her team would just get on with establishing a dementia friendly town.
And so it was, enthusiasm, hard work and the commitment of their mayor and her supporters is why Charleville, officially became the first town in Queensland where people from every kind of service and business attended free dementia awareness training, held on two consecutive days, and subsequently became Dementia Friends, ready and able to make their town even more Dementia Friendly.
People affected by dementia were consulted re: the choice of a seahorse as the symbol to create a distinctive logo to be used to identify people and places as dementia friendly.
David Renn, a Dementia Friend and commercial artist took time away from his busy career to create the logo and thus honour a very dear friend Janis, who is living with dementia. Janis and her friends at Come Dance With Me, a dementia friendly dance group, were instrumental in selecting the seahorse as our symbol and they were delighted with David’s work.
Hippocampus is the Greek name for seahorse, a part of the brain essential for short term memory. Alzheimer’s disease damages the hippocampus, creating difficulties in the realm of being able to remember what is happening in the here and now.
On the other hand, we know with exercise, the hippocampus can grow more cells and use these for memory. As little as three brisk walks, of 45 minutes duration per week, leads to a visible increase in the size of the hippocampus. Dance is even better.
Individuals, who attend awareness sessions subsequently wear lapel badges
A Dementia Friend Badge conveys a simple message: the person wearing this badge is willing and able to provide assistance, to any person living with dementia. The essence of all of this is kindness.
A Dementia Friend’s employer is entitled to display a badge designating the business or service as a dementia friendly place.
It will take less than 4 minutes to watch a video with an overview of why this simple concept is so effective. Google: Small Changes Help Make a Dementia Friendly Community
The Alzheimer’s Society in the UK has led the way. In England, as of June, 2017, more than 2 million people have registered as Dementia Friends. Isn’t it marvellous? That is nearly 2 million people in England, who have identified as Dementia Friends. All ages, different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, no matter, all of these people willingly assist people living with dementia to continue as valuable members of their communities.
Some of us are not interested in attending meeting that go nowhere, nor are we impressed with glossy publications or token actions. Clearly, a combination of local Enthusiasts and dementia awareness education is the way to start making good things happen now.
With Dementia Friends leading the way, the next step is action groups to identify the environmental and other changes necessary to make a town, through its people, dementia friendly.
A Spring Ball was held on the 19th September to celebrate Charleville, henceforth, proud to be known as Queensland’s first dementia friendly town. A great time was had by all.
A Celebratory Ball is the perfect occasion to launch a Dementia Friendly Place.
On 29th October, 2016, a Spring Ball to celebrate friendship and inclusiveness was held in the Dunwich Community Hall, a great time was had by all.
Three factors known to reduce the risk of dementia are
- Physical activity
- Social engagement and
- New Learning
Creative pursuits, especially dancing, are good for the brain. They have the potential to reduce the risk of dementia and assist those living with it to create new neural connections, whilst making friends, having fun and generally putting joy back into their lives.
In April 2016, Community Nurse Kate Whiley, attended a Creativity and Dementia workshop where I presented the case for dementia friendly towns, with Dementia Friends as the key concept.
I said: “Kate, you do the work and I’ll donate my time and come back and do awareness training for you, no charge.”
To my delight, Kate took up the challenge and led a campaign to make Inglewood dementia friendly. The response from local people was a tribute to her hard work. 50 + people attended a dementia awareness session on 23rd November and subsequently became Dementia Friends. A second session, also well attended, was held in April 2017.
In spite of what people may have heard, dementia is not the end of person’s ability to continue to participate as an active functioning member of their community.
Dementia causing diseases like Alzheimer’s, limit some functional capacities e.g. it may be necessary for another person to assist with way finding, shopping, form filling, and generally coping with ordinary activities of daily living.
Most of the time, being a Dementia Friend is about patience, helpfulness and simple acts of kindness many people already do.
A little extra understanding makes a huge difference. Dementia is diagnosed when a person’s brain is not working the way it did before and it is becoming increasingly difficult for him or her to cope with everyday living..
Google: Small changes make a dementia friendly community, and go to an excellent video, it takes just 4 minutes and explains everything so well.
People attending awareness sessions, also learn how age creatively and thus reduce their risk of dementia.
Use it or lose it, use it and grow some more. We can change the way our brain works. You can increase your cognitive reserve, slow down the ageing process and have lots of fun doing it.
To date, I have presented three free Dementia Awareness sessions, at the Minjerriba Respite Centre in Dunwich. Then, Manager Mary Burgess and Assistant Manager Cheryl Rodgers, have supported the concept from the beginning and other members of the local community have lent a hand.
Local enthusiasts in Texas, supported by their local Lions Club, organised dementia awareness training for 27th April, morning and evening in the Town Hall. More than 100 people from every sector of the local community, offices, shops, community services like police and ambulance, local hospital, post office, bank, they all came and demonstrated a real desire to make their town a dementia friendly place to live. Attendance, led by the principal and all the teachers, was fabulous at the local school the following day. I was deeply moved by the enthusiasm and interest children from Prep to Year 10 showed in considering ways where they could assist people and generally make a difference. Music Lists for Pods was very high on the list. The enthusiasm of the local children from Years 9 and 10 inspired a visitor from NSW, a Tech Teacher who vowed to return to his class and immediately get a project launched for local aged care facilities.
Texas Prep Students, they have had Dementia Awareness education, come up with some really great ideas and are all set to be Dementia Friends. The school Principal ensured every child from the school (180 pupls) had the opportunity of attending a session for their age group (4 sessions) Year 9 & 10 students attended the morning session in the Town Hall.
I’ve been back to Texas on 27th April, 2018 to join them in a Lantern Parade to celebrate a rewarding year as a dementia friendly town. Subsequently the Texas volunteers have begun work to establish a dementia friendly garden right in the centre of town.
Redland City Dementia Friendly Community Meeting, held on August 10th 2017, was a great success, no doubt due to the tireless efforts of Una and Jess. Support came from the council, led with encouraging enthusiasm by Mayor Karen Williams. Redland City became the first metropolitan area in Queensland to commit to becoming a dementia friendly place to live
Next, on 7 th September, I presented the first Redlands Free Dementia Friend Awareness Education, at Thorneside Community Hall. It was very well attended by an enthusiastic group of people who are keen to see changes for the better for people affected by dementia who live in their community.
After the awareness session, an Action Group was established to begin the practical work that will make Redlands dementia friendly in more than name.
We want reality, not rhetoric. In the Redlands, we are planning to demonstrate what happens, when the first regional area in Australia to do so, gets serious about practicalities and shows, through action, what a difference it makes when people are, in deed, not just word, true Dementia Friends
Support came from a variety of sectors across the community. Several councillors attended, community services were well represented as was the biggest retail precinct in Cleveland.
Subsequently a group of enthusiasts with support from the local council, has begun the preparatory work toward establishing a dementia friendly community garden right in the centre of Cleveland.
Why not establish a movement and dance class or a dementia friendly community garden where you live
Dementia does not take away a person’s ability to continue enjoying life, it does make it difficult, even impossible for them to organise these oh so valuable social events without a little help from their friends
If not now when? If not you, who
If not now when? If not you who?
Creative dance as offered to people with dementia in the Come Dance With Me and Shall we Dance Classes, has the potential to bring joy and purpose into the lives of people living with dementia. At last, something wonderful for a person to do where there is no wrong way, only their way.
Dance and movement generally, focus on strengths and abilities, on personal potential, rather than difficulties and deficits. People with dementia still have so much to offer and the joy and fulfilment dance brings, should be a readily available right, wherever a person lives, whether at home or in a residential care facility.
St George is the latest town where local Enthusiasts, supported and funded by Rotary organised 4 awareness sessions which were well attended by people representing council, local clubs, services and just generally taken with the idea there is something every one of us can do to make living with dementia better than would otherwise be.
Deputy mayor Fiona Gaske joined in a ribbon dance with gusto and subsequently is working to start up a dance class for people affected by dementia and their friends in St George.
Patrice Robinson, who, with long time Enthusiast Terri Lee (pictured above Left, Terri is fourth from the right) , started the whole process in St George rang less than a week after I had been in St George, all excited about their plans for their town and region. High on the list is converting a lovely park the local Rotary Club has established by the beautiful Balonne River, into a Dementia Friendly Community Garden, a place where a person living with dementia can go with family or friends to grow things, assist in maintenance or simply relax safely. The local CWA (their 2019 president picture above first right) and the Men’s Shed, are just two of the local groups already involved.
I went back n 18th May to presented another awareness session and join in the exciting event where they unveiled their Dementia Friendly town signs. One will be placed at each entrance to the town, great idea.
Some additional,lovely news from St George concerns the ongoing success of the Movement and Dance Group established with great enthusiasm by local Community Nurse and Rotary Club and CWA members in. The joy on the faces of the people participating is all one needs to know what a great success it is.