I went to the Dementia Action Alliance conference last week.
The highlight for me was Jeremy Hughes, CEO Alzheimers Society, speaking about the progress of the Alliance nationally.
60% of members of the national alliance have not updated their action plans on the website.
We have around 2,350 national members, compared with 40 four years ago. Brilliant.
But Jeremy asks whether inactive members should be removed as members. Better to have fewer active members doing things.
I totally agree. And that brings me back home.
Our Shropshire Dementia Action Alliance is great, with almost twenty members doing various things to make a Shropshire more dementia friendly. Excellent.
We need more members. More actions. More change.
A friend in the alliance said to me recently I don’t feel like I am doing anything. Let’s organise an annual conference in Shropshire to promote friendly approaches to people with dementia and their carers. Great idea, and we start talking about it next week.
Are the local members, who are also national members, updating action plans? No.
Are they doing things? Yes.
Are our newer local members signing up with action plans? No.
Are they doing things? Um, I think so.
So what is missing?
Is it organisational ownership, or reluctance, or governance, or risk management?
Is it lack of sponsorship at the top of these organisations?
It’s all very well being a social movement, and working at the ground level, but real actions are needed. Real changes.
We need to use our networks, within and without our organisations, to spread the passionate commitment to change. We need to use our social media, our telephone calls, our casual meetings…to spread the word.
To talk about dementia.
To make change happen.
And to get commitment at all levels of organisations and communities.
Jeremy Hughes spoke about Dementia Friends training being the start not the end of the process. It’s great to open people’s eyes to the new paradigm of living with dementia, seeing the person not the label. Understanding what is in their mind, not working from your own.
But we need change. Actions that bring about change.
Changes to the built environment in hospitals, shops, council offices, gyms, shopping centres.
Changes in how staff interact with people with dementia, in transport, shops, hospitals, hotels, banks, garages.
Changes to how we support people with dementia after diagnosis, and their carers, to keep engaged in their communities, to get brief but available respite opportunities, activities that energise and activate.
Changes in attitudes of medical professionals and all staff working in the health and care sectors, at all levels of care, so they understand the new paradigm. So they see the person not the label, not the disease.
Medics can’t cure it, but they can help to make it possible to live well with it.
Social change movements are most effective when they operate through social networks. (NHSIQ and Helen Bevan have shown this very clearly. Have a look at “The Edge”).
So we all need to use our networks, all our contacts, every opportunity, to tell people about living well with dementia, and to get them to feel our passion for change.
Don’t be frightened of accusations of hobby horses and cracked records. Whisper, speak, sing, shout…whatever suits you and where you find yourself.
Develop your own personal “elevator speech” which you use with people you meet. One minute to tell them why you feel passionately and why it is essential to change organisations, environments and communities so they become dementia friendly.
Change will happen when we work together, with passion.
Actions will follow from words if you feel the passion and begin see the intolerable situations around you.