Who are we?
Friends Of Dementia is an initiative aimed at creating social change to enhance understanding of dementia and to encourage individuals to take action and support people living with dementia in their community.
The Dementia Friends movement was originally launched in the United Kingdom by the Alzheimer’s Society and with support from the UK government. The programme represents one of the Alzheimer’s Society’s tools to create “Dementia Friendly Communities”, communities that are more understanding and inclusive of people living with dementia. Becoming a Friends Of Dementia is very simple. All that is asked is that 5 key messages be understood (they reflect what the Alzheimer’s Society in the UK believes everyone should know about dementia) and that a commitment to take a dementia-friendly action be made. Friends Of Dementia are then encouraged to report on the dementia-friendly action they take. Since the key messages address widely held misconceptions about dementia, they are also readily applicable to Mauritius, as explained in the next point.
Why Friends of Dementia in Mauritius?
Mauritius is often cited the world over as a model for peaceful coexistence and tolerance. This description however is probably limited to ethnic, religious, and/or cultural considerations. Acceptance of declining function in old age on the other hand is more problematic. For instance, many requests for Corporate Social Responsibility contributions by the Association Alzheimer to private organisations have been met negatively. The reasons usually revolve around more pronounced interests in youth programmes, and these organisations typically claim they contribute to society from the ground up (i.e. youths now who grow older). Moreover, the very small pool of volunteers at the Association Alzheimer also attests to the difficulty for dementia to garner sustained commitment from the general public. Friends Of Dementia represents a voice, an opportunity to engage with society at large: from children in schools to older adults in their homes; from blue collar workers to directors in large companies. The practical considerations and financial limitations will be highlighted below.
The 5 key messages of Friends of Dementia.
The following messages illustrate the opposite of the beliefs most people hold about dementia. This is backed by our experience talking to the families of persons attending the Alzheimer’s day centre. They also contribute to the delay in families seeking professional health services when confronted with a family member experiencing neurocognitive symptoms, but more importantly they may also negatively impact the wellbeing of persons living with dementia.
1. Dementia is not a natural part of ageing.
2. Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain.
3. Dementia is not just about losing memory.
4. It is possible to live well with dementia.
5. There is more to the person than the dementia. Friends Of Dementia is about creating change, from understanding to taking an action, big or small. Indeed, psychological variables heavily influence decisions: language affects thoughts which in turn impact feelings, and these influence behaviours. Simply changing the terms used when talking about dementia can cast a more positive light on dementia and therefore encourage public support for change. In fact, one dementia-friendly action is changing the language used when talking about dementia (e.g. instead of “dementia sufferer” say “person with dementia”).