I woke up this morning thinking about the concept of Dementia Friendly Communities. Yes I sit on a committee here where I live to help our community become “ Dementia Friendly “.
The concept behind this is great, it’s important, it will go a long way to create awareness, understanding about Dementia, it will also help decrease the fear that surrounds Dementia, and allow those living with dementia a better quality of life while maintaining being part of their communities. It will help in the effort to stop the stigma and stereotyping that has for far to long been part of the challenges and road blocks for people with Dementia.
We ( I and many others), have been talking about the use of the phrase (“dementia Friendly”), not because the phrase itself is so bad but more because it at some levels is segregating, people with dementia from others with other types of illnesses.
Make no mistake segregation is a Human Rights issue and violation, people being housed in Long Term Care ( I refer to those as human warehouses), are segregated, locked doors, displaced from being part of the main body. It is against their human rights, but that fight is ongoing and another one I will fight to see change in.
But we often ask others to think outside the box, colour outside the lines when we are talking about dementia, and therefore we must be willing to do the same. So this morning I woke up, made that all important coffee, sat in my bed thinking about the “dementia friendly community”.
I realized that perhaps I needed to rethink and reframe how I see that terminology. This again speaks to the importance of language, which is also something I speak about often.
If I really step back and look at it, calling it “ Dementia Friendly can actually have many benefits for us. It lets anyone living with dementia know that they are welcomed, that they can and will receive the help they require, it will by the sheer efforts of implementation help reduce stigma and stereotyping. And although having a “ Inclusive Community for all “, would be the ideal, if we start by embracing Dementia Friendly Communities and look beyond just the words, we can find many things in it that will help not only those with Dementia, but anyone with any type of cognitive impairment, the aged, brain injury, stroke survivors, and truly anyone with any type of impairment. So if by using the term and language ‘“ Dementia Friendly”, we can move and improve things not only for those living with Dementia, but so many others, then I should be willing and able to say this is an instance where I have to be able to look outside the box,
I have to be willing to see that language is important, not only for the damage it can do, but for the good it can do. Sometimes we can get stuck, and while asking others to do something we too must be willing. So today I will start thinking about the terminology around “Dementia Friendly” a little differently. For it can and does actually depict that we are welcome, something that for a long time those with dementia did not feel. I am grateful that I have the ability to step back take a look at my own thought process my own viewpoints and be willing to look from another side.
It’s a great initiative, it’s why I agreed to be part of it, being able to look at the terminology from a positive viewpoint can only help enhance the whole process.
There is much advocacy and work that needs to be done for those living with dementia, but those of us cannot and must not become and do exactly what we are trying to change.
We must all no matter what organization we are affiliated with, no matter what we must be willing to collaborate and work together, embrace the uniqueness each organization brings to the table, to learn from each other, stop competing, start embracing, and be willing to say you are so strong in this piece we will help you in it, we are strong in this piece you can help us in it, supporting and working together, because truly this is not about one organization or another this about people living with Dementia, and if we make it about our organizations then we have lost the most important element, that being that it’s really about human lives. That we must never stand by and allow.