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Creating a dementia friendly society

THE NEWLY opened shop in Bigton is to become “dementia friendly” as part of a drive to make life easier for people with Alzheimer living in the community.

A first for Shetland, the NHS’ dementia services manager Alan Murdoch has been to the Bigton shop to carry out a dementia audit.

He is now advising the community owned shop of how to implement changes to its lay-out and will also train staff to raise awareness.

The move is part of attempts by Alzheimer Scotland to reduce the stigma that is still attached to people with memory loss, and make society more tolerant and informed about the condition.

Currently there are around 200 people in the isles diagnosed with dementia, a figure that will double over the next 20 years.

Laura Whittall, the vice-chair of Bigton shop, said little changes like better lighting and not permanently changing the content of shelves would go a long way.

“It is also in your village shop where you can start identifying people with cognitive impairment.

“We could have an alert system in place whereby staff realise that there may be a problem when someone comes in every single day and the only thing they ever buy is tins of beans,” she said.

Newly appointed dementia advisor for Shetland, Ann Williamson, said it was important to bring the condition into the public domain.

“It is important that dementia becomes something that gets spoken about in the community, and that it is a condition people feel comfortable with.

“The aim is to create an environment and a culture in the community where dementia is not something to be scared of, and where people with dementia can be naturally supported in that community.”

Stephen Mullay, the isles’ dementia clinical nurse specialist, added that key to successful intervention was to keep people with the condition in their familiar environment for as long as possible.

“It has been proved that if you take people out their environment their symptoms instantly get worse.

“If you are going into hospital with an infection of any kind, and you have also dementia, you will have worse outcomes than a person without dementia, simply because how the clinical system works,” he said.

Mr Murdoch added that contrary to common belief a lot could be done to lessen the symptoms of dementia.

“We can’t cure dementia but we can slow it down – people can learn to do things for themselves, which will give them a greater ability to cope with dementia.

“Exercise can help to give a better blood flow to the brain, a healthier diet is good for heart and brain, and we also encourage people to become more socially active.

“These are all things that are important in terms to keep people better with their dementia,” he said.