Voice of Leeds: Health bosses’ call for city to be dementia-friendly

Voice of Leeds Summit 2015 on dementia, held at the Yorkshire Evening Post offices'. 'Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Voice of Leeds Summit 2015 on dementia, held at the Yorkshire Evening Post offices'. 'Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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Prominent figureheads in Leeds have issued a call to action to businesses and residents across the city to pledge their support in making Leeds dementia-friendly.

In the seventh YEP Voice of Leeds Summit 2015 - forums in which public, private and third sector decision makers meet over issues highlighted by our readers at the YEP’s Whitehall Road offices - a diverse panel yesterday tackled the issue of dementia.

As reported in the YEP earlier this week, it is estimated that by 2025, 10,000 people in Leeds will be diagnosed with the condition - nearly double the 5,800 diagnosed today.

The overwhelming message emerging from yesterday’s summit - organised in partnership with the Leeds Community Foundation - was for the need to raise awareness in communities and encourage people to sign up the city’s dementia-friendly initiatives - both to break down stigmas and also provide support to those living with the condition.

The meeting heard the Dementia Action Alliance Leeds - made up of local organisations committed to improving the quality of life for those with dementia and their carers - currently has 94 members, with organisers keen to soon reach 100.

Maggie Graham, Dementia Friendly Leeds campaign manager, said the campaign is a “fantastic vehicle” for helping those with dementia integrate into society but added: “It really needs to be owned by everyone and people need to realise that it’s not going to happen without everyone doing a little something.”

Peter Smith, of Dementia Friendly Rothwell, who has set up cafes and social events in the community for those with dementia to meet up, said people’s attitudes can be changed through raising awareness.

“Simple things to make it easier for people with dementia. We need to spread the message with the general public, with businesses, with supermarkets, banks, everyone,” he said.

Nicky Taylor, community development manager at West Yorkshire Playhouse said the dementia-friendly campaign was one of the “greatest social movements”, adding: “The work that Peter does shows it’s about people and making these connections and helping the man in the street to be more aware of how someone might experience dementia and how to support someone. If everyone in Leeds attends a dementia-friendly session that would be a fantastic result from this meeting.”

Panellists agreed that raising awareness within communities would also spread the message that a diagnosis does not mean life is over.

Tim Sanders, commissioning manager for dementia services in Leeds, said an analogy used in dementia-friendly sessions uses fairy lights on a Christmas tree - that a couple may be flickering “but the remaining 100 or 1,000 work perfectly well”.

Maggie added: “There are some inspiring examples of people who show that life is still full of living. You don’t suddenly wake up as a different person.”

Speaking after the summit, its chair, Pip Goff, programmes manager at Leeds Community Foundation said: “Leeds is leading the way in improving lives of people with dementia and LCF is proud to have facilitated such a positive discussion.

“Community, business and public sector organisations came together with so much passion and commitment to change attitudes and actions, recognising that fear and stigma can be worse than the condition itself. Distressing and challenging as dementia can be, if we all take a little time to have conversations and hear what people living with and alongside dementia are telling us.”

**How you can get involved:

Organisations can sign up to the Leeds Dementia Action Alliance by completing a form online at www.dementiaaction.org.uk/leeds and creating an action plan for how to support people with dementia.

Individuals can become Dementia Friends - to understand more about the condition and ways to help - by watching a short film online or attending a local awareness session run by a Dementia Friends Champion. Visit www.dementiafriends.org.uk for information.

Also visit ‘Dementia Friendly Leeds’ on Facebook or contact the Alliance on 0113 2441697.