Today, the town of Kidderminster is launching a bid to be recognised as Dementia Friendly. Mum lives in Kidderminster though I doubt she’d know if I asked her, despite having lived in the area for 37 years. “Where do you live?” used to be one of the questions asked by Mum’s specialist on her annual “check-up” (they were deemed no longer necessary about five years ago). She didn’t seem to know then so why should she now?
But I digress. So what does being Dementia Friendly mean? It’s all about awareness and understanding. If members of the community know and understand more about dementia, it should mean that life becomes a little easier for those living with dementia and their carers. In the days when Mum still had a semblance of independence, I used to take her for a weekly supermarket sweep. All would be fine, apart from the odd culinary combination, until Mum came to pay. Standing at the checkout, the impatience of those in the queue as Mum hunted for the right card and then tried to recall her PIN number was all too obvious. More uncomfortably, in different circumstances, I recognised it could have been me tutting and shifting from foot to foot. My wrist was metaphorically smacked.
There is no cure for dementia but that doesn’t – mustn’t – mean there is no hope. Dementia Friendly Communities must be part of that hope. All of us can play a part in making the lives of others more tolerable.
The work of the Alzheimer’s Society and Dementia Action Alliances up and down the country is central to this but we can all help. In fact, at a time when tolerance of different races and lifestyles feels strained at the very least, doesn’t the Dementia Friends initiative offer a lesson to us all?
Trying to appreciate each other and the varied lives we lead must be a way forward.