Jesmond Dementia-Friendly Community Project Officially Launches
Jesmond’s long-term project to become a dementia friendly community was officially launched at a meeting at Newcastle Cricket Club this past weekend.
JesmondLocal revealed last month that an initiative is underway to raise awareness about dementia and help people with the condition live independently for longer in Jesmond. If successful, Jesmond would be the first part of the city to adopt such a policy. The well-attended meeting, organised by the Jesmond Community Forum, boasted a cast of speakers chaired by South Jesmond councillor Felicity Mendelson.
Simon Kitchen, who is standing as the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Newcastle Central in the coming general election and has worked in social regeneration in the west end of the city, is Executive Lead for the Dementia Action Alliance (which is associated with the Alzheimer’s Society). He outlined his vision for a national, “non-hierarchical” movement led by social and community organisations.
Kitchen begun his talk by relaying a deeply personal story about growing up in Heaton and his own grandmother’s experience with dementia and how inadequate care was at that time.
Central to the problem today, he said, is that dementia is “seen in narrow terms as a medical condition but we must see it also as a social condition too”. Kitchen also expressed the hope that if the Jesmond experiment proves successful then other parts of the city will follow, and called on Newcastle City Council to ensure all staff take dementia awareness training.
Victoria Fawcett, who is a Dementia Friend Champion and administers dementia awareness training, detailed how she was introduced to dementia care at university after getting involved with the charity Nightline. Victoria, who is due to officially become a qualified mental health nurse this week, told a story about meeting a patient with Korsakoff’s syndrome, a condition similar to dementia.
Fawcett detailed how despite the aggressive form of dementia, which had reduced the patients vocabulary to just three words, the patient remembered her after long periods of separation. She said that this relationship taught her that “there is more to dementia than what you read about it on paper”. Demonstrating some of the techniques she uses as part of the training, Fawcett detailed to the meeting how awareness and education should be at the heart of the community project.
Katie Brittain, who is a Lecturer in Social Gerontology from the Institute of Health and Society at Newcastle University, showed the meeting how she is researching ways to use technology in order to make living with dementia easier. In conjunction with Andrew Garbett, a computer scientist and PhD researcher also from Newcastle University, they discussed the in-development app which offers a way to collate information about specific communities (such as where dementia friendly businesses are or where uneven pavements might pose a problem for people living with dementia) and share it.
The map-based app is a collaborative-platform and stems from a project called Appmovement. Garbett, who is closely involved with Appmovement, describes the philosophy behind the project as a way of allowing “communities to commission their own technology”.
During a Q&A session JesmondLocal asked how the panel saw the Jesmond community project in relation to wider problems surrounding the ageing population and long term recourse pressures on health and social services.
Cllr Mendelson recognised this concern, warning that we need “more integration between social care and health” and that in the face of “diminishing funds” the task it to “make sure things work together”. Brittain said that she thought “the wall between the university and civic engagement is breaking down” and expressed a hope that academic research such as hers can aid with this broader project of integrating care services.