Establishing Derry as a ‘dementia friendly city’ is no easy task, but that’s exactly what Una Hume and Sabrina Lynch have tasked themselves with.
Based at the Old Library Trust Creggan Healthy Living Centre, Una and Sabrina are spearheading DEED, ‘Derry engaging and empowering dementia.’
“Dementia isn’t just isolating for the sufferer, but also for their carers and families and we want to make everyday life easier for those people. At the moment in Derry, dementia is dealt with through a process of trial and error. There are some very good things going on in Derry in places which are already dementia friendly, but there are other not so good experiences too and there are certainly issues which need highlighted in that sense.
“Our objective is that over eventually all shops and businesses will have some level of understanding about how to recognise, help and support people with dementia.”
Una says the priority of those rolling out the DEED project is to ensure that people living with dementia can continue to have relative independence, and enjoy life.
“The key thing is the response of people who work in business, those people, through their businesses, can affect a big change,” she says.
“For example many businesses have cluttered shop floors and poor signage and this can add to the confusion of a dementia sufferer and add to the problems they encounter when they go out in public. We at DEED want to remove as many of those barriers as possible. We feel that this is best achieved by businesses having helpful and supportive staff.”
For Una and her colleagues, the focus will be on those everyday rituals which most of us take for granted.
“We want to help dementia sufferers be able to continue going to the shop. For example, in most chemists, pharmacists will be trained to deal with dementia in customers, but what if a dementia sufferer wants to visit the make-up counter. They should be catered for there in the same way.
“It’s about changing that approach to invisible disability. If someone has a physical disability, that can be seen and recognised but with something like dementia, it’s very different. For example, at times if someone is having difficulty getting their money ready at the till people behind them in the queue will begin to get frustrated so I think a lot more understanding is needed by society in general, but what DEED is doing is making sure that those who are dealing with members of the public here in Derry are well equipped to be supportive and helpful.”