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Recognizing Dementia’s Unsung Superheroes

Recognizing Dementia’s Unsung Superheroes


This year, the Alzheimer’s Society in Great Britain is introducing the Dementia Friendly Awards, which recognize individuals, groups and businesses who are working to improve and facilitate the lives of people living with the illness.

As Lynda Bellingham writes in The Telegraph, the awards were inspired by David Cameron’s 2012 national challenge on dementia, in which the English prime minister called for the country to become more livable for those with the disease. Currently, 800,000 people in Britain have Alzheimer’s.

Since Cameron’s challenge, nation-wide efforts to improve the lives of those with Alzheimer’s have exceeded expectations. According to Jeremy Hughes, the chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, the original goal was to have 20 towns and cities on board to become “dementia-friendly” communities by 2015. A “dementia-friendly community” is a village, town or city where people with dementia and Alzheimer’s are respected and supported, and where they feel they can contribute to daily life.

The Alzheimer’s Society has already signed up 45 communities, and 4,999 individual Dementia Friend Champions. Large and small businesses have agreed to participate, for instance, Marks and Spencer, the Lloyds Banking Group, Argos and Homebase, to make the “high street” shopping experience dementia-friendly. The awards aim to recognize and highlight these advancements in communities across the country. They are sponsored by the Lloyds Banking group and The Telegraph.

Bellingham, whose late mother lived with dementia for nearly a decade, saw firsthand how isolating the disease can be, both for the person living with it, and for their family. In her experience, shops and cafés weren’t welcoming or accommodating for her mother. Even friends didn’t know how to deal with the situation. They felt uncomfortable, she writes, and shied away.

Bellingham hopes that initiatives like the awards will encourage businesses, groups and individuals to put more thought into how they can support families dealing with Alzheimer’s and dementia. If society talks about the illness, she writes, it will lead to a broader understanding.

In its inaugural year, the Dementia Friendly Awards are open only to applicants in England. But similar programs exist in the United States. For example, the Ginny Gives Award, presented by the Dementia Society of America, recognizes individuals or groups who work to improve quality-of-life for those living with the disease.

The U.K.s’ Dementia Friendly Awards will recognize groups or individuals in seven categories: local initiative; regional initiative; national initiative; voluntary organization; business; school and college; and Dementia Friends Champion.

Those interested in applying can view the eligibility criteria at http://alzheimers.org.uk/dementiafriendlyawards.

Entries close on Friday, March 28, and a shortlist will be announced in April 2014.

For more information, read Bellingham’s article here.

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