In 2006 Ann Pascoe’s life took a radical change of direction when her husband Andrew was diagnosed with vascular dementia. Ann became his caregiver and, rapidly recognising the distinct lack of services and support available in her remote, rural community, was spurred on to make change.
“We retired to Portgower, a small hamlet south of Helmsdale, in 2000 ready to do all the things we’d planned to do before we got too old to do them! And then disaster struck … at age 58 Andrew was diagnosed with vascular dementia. And it was then that I realised we were a dementia family on our own: entirely on our own, with absolutely no support! And it was this long, lonely journey that made me determined no-one should ever have to do this alone. After four painful years, I decided to take the coping strategies I’d learned one step further and use them as a basis to speak out at the same time as the Scottish Dementia Strategy was launched. So what was the solution? How could I ensure dementia families in our community were put FIRST: since my husband and I simply didn’t have the luxury of time to wait until the Dementia Strategy reached us, I realised the only chance we had was if, as a community, we started pushing upwards in the hope we’d meet the Strategy filtering down. And so I set about figuring out how to make our rural community dementia friendly.”
Following numerous meetings with key personnel in the local community and a lot of asset mapping, gaining credibility and hard work for Ann, Dementia Friendly Communities CIC was finally established in 2012.
Between 2012 and 2014, many of DFC’s activities were coordinated by a number of task groups, each made up of individual stakeholders and representatives from local service providers volunteering their time. Some tasks groups help to establish DFC’s identity, website and strategy for raising awareness of dementia within the local communities. Others coordinated the development of a number of projects, including our Freedom to Roam GPS trial and Zest For Life group who organised an annual awareness event each year until 2015.
After receiving funding from Life Changes Trust in 2015, DFC was able to rely less on volunteers and take on more staff. Our activities are now more project-based with work being carried out by the staff who form and consult task groups as and when they are required.
In 2017, we were awarded funding – in partnership with Age Scotland and NHS Public Health – to work alongside a number of other remote, rural communities to roll out our DFC model in their area. This work involves a combination of mentoring, useful publications and shared learning to support the creation of more dementia friendly communities in rural Scotland.
Following the conclusion of the three-year funding from Life Changes Trust in 2018, we received a grant from the Big Lottery Fund to support our core costs for a further three years.
In 2019, the decision was made to change the name we operate under to better reflect the more socially inclusive approach our work was taking. On 16th March we launched our new name, Connecting Communities.