Blog: Rural communities that support people with dementia
Published: 30 Jul 2018
Dementia is an issue everywhere, but in rural areas, the issue is exaggerated because many people are isolated. Where I live, in a village in the Scottish Highlands, there are only about 700 people. We don’t have a bank or even a chemist. In a city, you can go to the park or a restaurant, and you’ll see people. But in rural villages like mine, that’s not the case.
When an older person living in a rural area is diagnosed with dementia, usually on top of other health issues they’re already dealing with, there often isn’t a younger person around to help them – in some rural areas of the Scottish Highlands, one in three people are over 65. This means the community has to step in.
When my husband Andrew was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2006, I saw how ill-equipped our local community was in this respect; nobody knew anything. There was a lack of information and support around dementia.
Below: Ann Pascoe
I realised that something had to change, so in 2012 I applied for a Churchill Fellowship to travel to India and learn about community support for people with dementia. I saw many inspiring initiatives, but it was the principle of what they were doing that has guided the action I’ve taken since: that lay people can be informed about dementia, and that we don’t have to only rely on professionals.
When I returned to the UK, with the help of other people in my community, I started a social enterprise called Dementia Friendly Communities (DFC). We’ve established a Circle of Support in our rural community that acts as an additional layer of assistance between the person with dementia and their carer and the NHS.
All of our staff and volunteers are trained in identifying and supporting people with dementia and can recognise issues that need to be referred to a professional. In addition, when a person with dementia comes out of hospital, the community support steps in once again.
The support we provide includes a wellbeing hub providing regular social activities (top picture), arts programmes and Dinner to Your Door, which currently provides between 30 and 40 meals in our area every day. Not only do these initiatives support the wellbeing of the person with dementia, they also relieve some of the burden on the carer.
Below: DFC's Dinner to Your Door programme provides 30 to 40 meals every day
We’ve received £225,000 funding from the Life Changes Trust to roll out the Circle of Support to eight other rural communities. They will each receive £10,000 plus an interactive screen to link them into our rural network and our support to help them get up and running.
I’ve also been able to influence the way dementia is responded to in rural communities at a national level. I was part of the Prime Minister's Rural Dementia Communities Task and Finish Group, which published its ‘Dementia-friendly rural communities guide’ earlier this year. In addition, we’re in the process of writing practical How To guides rooted in our experiences of establishing community support, which anyone will be able to download from the DFC website.
In 2014 I gained an MSc in Dementia and this, along with my Churchill Fellowship, has given me the credibility I need to do the work I’ve done. Before this, I had lived experience of dementia, but nobody would listen to me. My Fellowship changed everything, and it gave me the wherewithal to do all the things I wanted to do.