Highland Compassionate Communities

In 2017, we launched Highland Compassionate Communities in partnership with NHS Public Health and Age Scotland. As of July 2018, Connecting Communities and NHS Public Health are continuing this work. This project is possible thanks to the financial support of the Life Changes Trust.

On the assumption that dementia friendly is people friendly, the aim of Highland Compassionate Communities is to use our Helmsdale Circle of Support  as a rural model to roll out a socially inclusive dementia friendly model to 8 other rural communities across the Highlands with the ultimate aim of taking the learning across Scotland.

A loose framework – reflecting the needs, aspirations and individuality of each local community – has been defined, together with a ‘how-to’ toolkit of appropriate programmes to make each rural dementia friendly community not only commercially viable but also a circle of support for dementia families living in that community.

Two pilot communities have confirmed their participation: Appin in Argyll and Milton in Ross-shire.  The Partnership is working with each of these communities to:

  • set up a rural dementia friendly community organisation
  • institute appropriate programmes to fulfil the dementia needs of their particular community
  • ensure both qualitative and quantitative evaluation processes are in place to feed data, learning, case studies etc into LCT’s six monthly monitoring system
  • learn using the Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA) method to fine tune the toolkit
  • Support/mentor both pilots

At the same time, further Highland communities have been targeted for the next stage of the project.

People affected by dementia are – in keeping with our key values – involved in every step of the process in setting up and running the new rural dementia friendly communities:  in other words ‘nothing for people affected by dementia without input from people living with dementia’.

By setting up and mentoring rural dementia friendly communities based on our model across Highlands, the project will highlight not only good practice, but is also expected to provide evidence to better understand how dementia friendly can in fact be people friendly and support age friendly communities to combat isolation and loneliness, particularly in rural areas, in the future.

Statistics say 1 in 3 people will be affected by dementia and if up to a third of our rural population comprises elderly people (some diagnosed but with many more showing as ‘forgetful’ elders) we need to be throwing out a wider net to support older people in general so that if/when they are diagnosed, they already have a support network around them.

Therefore at the same time we develop dementia friendly communities in the rural areas identified by the project, we are considering how this work can be applied to a community based approach to develop socially inclusive age friendly communities. we are conscious of areas where progress for people for dementia benefits older people more broadly.  In developing, for example, dementia friendly transport initiatives, community design, businesses, housing and health services, older people with a range of different conditions are better supported. A community which is more conscious of the need to tackle loneliness will better support all older people including those with dementia. While the project has a clear focus on better support for people affected by dementia, it is hoped this work will inform an approach through which people with dementia are better supported as older people and not only as people with dementia.

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