This important campaign has now been running for around 18 months and is still as significant as ever.
It all started with a roundtable session at Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s (JRF) London office, attended by journalists, people with dementia, and a range of organisations working in the field of dementia. We all agreed that the language that is used to describe dementia itself, people with dementia, and the impact of dementia is often rather negative. So often we hear people say “he is demented”, “she is a dementia sufferer”, “the dementia time bomb”… all of which conjure up nasty, withering, and frightening images. We wanted to change that! And so we discussed the different ways that we could promote using positive language and how these would be implemented. If only we had all the time and money in the world!
We decided that the easiest way to implement these ideas on a shoestring and with such a small group of passionate people was to encourage people to sign up to this campaign by making a pledge on the Dementia Action Alliance website. Posters, infographics and leaflets were created, showing positive photos of people living WELL with dementia and urging everyone to be considerate about the language that we all use. JRF made a fantastic video on the importance of language, starring people with dementia themselves, which was very effective. On Our Radar also created a national series of audio diaries – entitled Dementia Diaries – that documented the day-to-day lives of people living with dementia. By sharing their experiences, they hope to prompt dialogue and promote understanding.
Many people wrote to national papers telling them about Dementia Words Matter and challenged them to change the language that they use. And some did! This is a fantastic example of what everyone can do, and something that is so quick and easy.
The number of signatories now stands at an amazing 388 individuals and organisations, all committing to use positive language when speaking about dementia. These include many major organisations, such as Barclays Bank, British Red Cross, Care Quality Commission, Local Government Association, Royal College of General Practitioners, and St John’s Ambulance. This is still such a fantastic campaign, and I have heard so many people speaking of the impact that they have witnessed as a result of this. Changing the language that is used is one of the first steps in changing people’s perception of dementia. If everyone was successful in changing just one person’s vocabulary of dementia, then we are on a positive path to creating a dementia friendly society, where stigma is banished and people with dementia can live well.