I'm never one to shy away from a big task. Life's too short (especially when you're living with dementia and the clock is ticking). But this is a big one!
Anyone with dementia will tell you that daily life is littered with barriers that prevent them from taking full advantage of goods and services. Barriers that could easily be removed with a little planning and consideration for the needs of the dementia community.
So what are we going to do about it?
Let's get out there and audit the WORLD!
We need to show EVERYONE who provides a service or product to the general public the benefits of making it dementia friendly. We must help them to see how they can increase footfall, profit and/or efficiency while providing an enhanced service to customers whether whey are a manufacturer, a retailer, a civic building, a hospital, a place of entertainment... The list is all encompassing.
Truth be told, designing with the needs of the disabled and those affected by dementia in mind should be the norm.
Statistics predict that 25% of the population will be affected by dementia at some time in their lives - That's a lot of potential customers with a lot of spending power, and they'll spend their money in places where they feel comfortable and safe and on products that are designed to be easy for them to use.
How do we make change happen?
First things first. if people aren't aware of the benefits to be gained to their business from making it more dementia friendly, we have fallen at the first hurdle. So we need to campaign for international and industry standards that, when implemented, businesses can proudly display to show that they have made a serious effort to improve their dementia friendliness. Perhaps some of our dementia charities could step up to the mark and hold a national awards event celebrating the businesses and organisations who have shown the most excellence each year. We could be doing so much more at every level from local to global, but we seem (with a few exceptions) to be doing very little.
If you are a person living with dementia, a carer or a professional in one of the dementia-related disciplines, what are YOU doing to promote dementia friendly environments?
Do you contact the owners of places where you have experienced difficulties or discomfort to make them aware?
Do you suggest improvements to products and services when you see them?
What's the point?...
Well, the point is, that if enough of us speak up, change will happen. Our individual voices will join into a mighty choir shouting for change, and the people in the position to make those changes will finally hear it.
That's when we can show them the benefits and offer our help to identify what improvements are desirable and feasible.
And we can do that by AUDITING.
So how is an audit carried out and recorded?
The audit will generally progress from the general to the specific and will encompass ALL aspects of the environment under revue from the signposting to the area to the smallest aspects of interior design.
It will be thorough and the audit form will usually consist of a series of tick boxes grouped around specific areas from the general to the specific, with ample room for both negative and positive comments - I've never encountered a TRULY dementia-friendly environment, but almost everywhere I've been might have benefitted from SOME advice and improvement. Often, it's the inexpensive and easy to implement changes that make a big difference.
There are many online resources and downloadable audit templates available for you to customise to your exact requirements. Why not collaborate with some local dementia peer groups to produce a suite of audit forms that will provide a "toolkit" for everyone to use? The process is very informative and will result in many lively conversations and good ideas. Here are some links to great auditing resources:
A fantastic set of audit tools for assessing gardens, housing, hospitals, wards, care homes, housing and health centres.
The use of environmental assessment tools for the evaluation of Australian residential facilities for people with dementia A very useful and thought-provoking document.
INSIDE public spaces, OUTSIDE public spaces and other well written and helpful guides.
OK. That's a start. I hope you have found something useful that has whetted your appetite to start making observations which you can pass on to help businesses and institutions provide a better service to people living with dementia. I'm always looking for more resources, so please send me links to any useful and interesting articles you have found and I'll add them to the short list above.
I'd also be interested to hear of YOUR experiences with places where your dementia has made things difficult for you or your partner and any successful audits you've been involved in. Let's share our experiences and knowledge for the benefit of EVERYONE.