In 2006 my life took a radical change of direction when my husband Andrew was diagnosed with vascular dementia. I became his caregiver and recognised the distinct lack of services and support available in our remote, rural community in East Sutherland in the Scottish Highlands. This spurred me on to make change and I have now become a passionate campaigner on behalf of families affected by dementia.
Four years ago I formed Dementia Friendly Communities CIC (DFC) in an attempt to improve the lives of people with dementia and their carers in East Sutherland. I began with a very clear idea of what I wanted to happen, but lacked the time and local credibility to do it all myself. Building a network of like-minded people and establishing relationships with other local carers and people with dementia were key first steps. Then it had to be made official – registering DFC as a Community Interest Company. Once DFC was formalised we needed projects and programmes that would achieve my original aim of people with dementia and carers being fully supported to remain within their community for as long as they possibly could.
The process did not always run smoothly and a number of challenges presented themselves. To this day, we are constantly working on solutions to some of these challenges, including the financing of our work and making us sustainable, and the recruitment and retention of human resources. There has been a lot to learn within the past four years, but I am delighted that DFC now has a very strong staff team and Board of Directors who all bring a variety of valuable skills to the table and keep the cogs turning. This is a huge relief to me, as I faced times when I came up against a series of obstacles and felt sure that DFC could no longer continue to operate. We are also running a number of projects which are increasingly proving to me the value that DFC brings to the lives of people within our community – and not only to those living with dementia, but others who share similar concerns and those who want to play a bigger part in community life.
In early February 2016, we released our Rural Dementia Top Tips based on my experiences of establishing and running DFC. The development of these top tips was originally the result of Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) funding to evaluate our dementia friendly community, a task allocated to a team at Stirling University. I was keen that the information we had pulled together to support the researchers was not wasted, believing very strongly that others based in similar geographical surroundings could benefit from what we had learnt along the way.
These top tips are the culmination of four years of work, charting my journey from a lone carer to establishing Dementia Friendly Communities social enterprise in a remote, rural area. Gaining Life Changes Trust core funding in 2015 to carry out our work has enabled the recruitment of staff and together we are now making my vision a reality.
I am grateful to Philly Hare for all of her support and for presenting us with the opportunity to help others, and to Alison Dawson and Corrine Greasley-Adams at Stirling University, as well as the DFC staff.
Download Rural Dementia Top Tips from this website.
If you’d like to find out more about DFC visit our website www.adementiafriendlycommunity.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org