Awareness is key to understanding how to become dementia friendly during September

DEMENTIA FRIENDLY: Kara Nicholson and Sue Jogever talk about making busniesses dementia friendly. Photo: Laura Telford.
DEMENTIA FRIENDLY: Kara Nicholson and Sue Jogever talk about making busniesses dementia friendly. Photo: Laura Telford.

During Dementia Awareness Month local businesses are being encouraged to take small steps to create a more dementia friendly community.

The message being that becoming dementia friendly is not about making huge changes, but rather small calculated steps.

Kara Nicholson, a member of the local Dementia Friendly Communities Steering Committee said for businesses it is all about making reasonable changes to help those living with dementia.

“Living with dementia can be quite confusing so we are encouraging businesses to take small, simple and manageable steps to become dementia friendly,” Ms Nicholson said.

“Things like having a coloured toilet seat or a welcome mat that is not black are two simple steps but can hugely help someone with dementia.

“Another easy change is having larger fonts on documents from legal papers to menus.

“The move to becoming dementia friendly is not supposed to be costly but rather gradual changes to help others.”

Ms Nicholson said that if a business is exploring what it means to be dementia friendly they need to fill out an action plan and review it every 12 months.

“Becoming dementia friendly is as simple as completing an action plan which basically means walking through your business and identifying small things that can change to help someone navigate your business place with ease,” she said.

“The action plan looks at gaining commitment from the business to be dementia friendly, committing to training staff on being dementia friendly and then doing a walk through to see what minor changes can be made.

“It might be putting strips on the stairs as people with dementia can lack depth perception or installing a frosted panel across a glass door.

“The thing to remember is that it is not a one time thing, there are always new things that can be done to be more dementia friendly which is why the plan needs to be reviewed every 12 months.”

Port Macquarie has the second highest rate of dementia in the state, behind Myall Lakes with more than 2295 people currently diagnosed, according to the Dementia Prevalence Estimates 2016-2056 for the 2016 State Electoral Districts of NSW. The state electorate of Oxley ranked fifth with 2119 people diagnosed.

In Australia, three in 10 people over the age of 85 and almost one in 10 people over 65 have dementia according to the Economic Cost of Dementia in Australia 2016-2056 report commissioned by The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling NATSEM.

The report also said dementia is the second leading cause of death of Australians contributing to 5.4 percent of all deaths in males and 10.6 percent of all deaths in females each year.

Sue Jogever, owner of Belle Property in Port Macquarie, underwent the accreditation process a few years ago and is currently in the process of updating her dementia friendly accreditation.

“It feels great knowing that if someone who had dementia came in to see us they would not be experiencing more stress in a different surroundings,” Mrs Jogever said.

“In 2015 we were one of the first dementia friendly businesses in Port Macquarie and it is wonderful to see so many other businesses making simple changes and get accredited also.

“Particularly in our industry where so many people want to make a quick dollar we pride ourselves on taking the time to listen and help our clients when they need it most.”

Mrs Jogever also said the process to become accredited was designed not to be arduous and is encouraging more businesses to get involved. 

“It is all about making small changes, part of getting our accreditation was changing the font on our legal documents so that it was easier to read,” she said.

“But the most important part was bring our staff along and involving the whole team in the process so that everyone was on board.

“With the horrifyingly high rates of dementia in the Hastings more businesses should make the small changes and jump on board with being dementia friendly.”

To find out more about how your business can become dementia friendly head to the Dementia Friendly website.

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