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Council buildings and staff to go ‘dementia friendly’ to improve quality of life for sufferers

Alzheimers Society to provide training as part of two-phase project

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council is to go all out to ensure inclusion and promote a better quality of life for dementia sufferers and their families.

Buildings are to become ‘dementia friendly’, while staff are to be given specialised training.

A whole range of measures will be put in place in two phases – with the Alzheimers Society charity offering support and training every step of the way.

The proposals will go to council’s active and healthy communities committee when it meets on Monday.

A report explains the reason for seeking council go-ahead.

“Councils have a key role in developing inclusive, dementia-friendly communities,” it states.

“Simple changes to existing services and awareness-raising, for those who come into contact on a day to day basis with people suffering from dementia, such as staff working in council front-line services, for example, leisure, arts, customer services, recreation, culture, etc, will help people with dementia feel more confident and welcome when using council services.

“As the workforce ages and with an increasing number retiring at a later age, the number of people living with dementia while they are in work is set to rise.

“This has implications for employers, who are beginning to realise that dementia is becoming an increasing concern for their organisation and their staff.”

Councillors have been told that, working in partnership with the Alzheimers Society, the council is working to make the entire district ‘dementia friendly’.

The proposals would see the appointment of two ‘dementia champions’ within each department, who would complete a training programme.

It would then be their role to support and encourage others – primarily front-life teams and officers – to “make a positive difference to people living with dementia” who use council facilities and services.

Two staff from each department would also be invited to take part in a ‘dementia friendly communities’ interactive workshop. It would help them develop knowledge of dementia and “increase their confidence and skills to help them relate, communicate and support someone living with dementia, entering council facilities and requiring services”.

The first phase of the project would cover the appointment and training element.

The second phase refers to the buildings themselves – each council-owned facility will be assessed by an age friendly co-ordinator.

Various issues will be looked at.

Councillors have been informed that objects that are shiny, patterned or reflective can cause people with dementia to misinterpret what they are seeing; features such as lighting, mirrors, shadows, steps and patterned walls and floors “may cause problems for some dementia sufferers”.

The aim will be to ensure that all buildings are adequately presented and promote others to follow their lead.

The committee will be asked on Monday to consider the proposals before they come back to be formally ratified early next month.

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