Making our businesses dementia friends

words: Chris Parker

As I write this, there are 850,000 people in the UK who are living with dementia – a figure expected to rise to a million within a few short years. Our children and grandchildren have a one in three chance of developing dementia in later life, which also means that many of them will be caring for somebody with dementia, and it could be you or me or any one of your friends and family.

So, 850,000 very good reasons for your business to be one that is dementia friendly, because people living with dementia still need all the goods and services they did before their diagnosis. They need shops, buses and insurance, and yes, even funeral directors, because sometimes it’s the dementia carer who dies and the surviving spouse, your client, has dementia.

We are all very good at meeting the needs of our clients in myriad ways. Taking that little bit of care, which we are so well known for, to make the funeral a memorable experience tailored to support the particular needs of a family, such as signposting them to bereavement support, providing age appropriate books for children and ensuring there is a wheelchair available for a relative with poor mobility. All of these things we do as a matter of course, but many of us have overlooked the particular needs of the next of kin or close relatives who have dementia – all 850,000 of them.

At the AGM weekend in Brighton, SAIF was proud to announce that we have become the newest corporate partner of the Alzheimer’s Society. We have pledged, as an organisation, to make as many of our members and their staff dementia aware as we can, and also to help the Alzheimer’s Society with needed fundraising.

Dementia now kills more people than either cancer or heart disease, but significantly less is given to dementia research than is given for research into other diseases. For every four cancer researchers, there is only one dementia researcher. A cure is dependent on research and dementia won’t go away until we have a cure.

Making your business one that is dementia friendly relies very much on you and your staff being dementia aware. So, first stage is to encourage all of your staff to become dementia friends. It is a very simple process which can be done online through the SAIF website.

Each person accessing the programme and becoming a dementia friend will be credited to the SAIF total. We already have the 50 who attended the seminar in Brighton, so a good start. Why not make it part of your induction for new staff?

As a business working to become dementia friendly there are two other aspects of your business life which you should consider. First of all, are your premises dementia friendly? Is access easy? People with dementia often have problems with mobility.

Is everything clearly signposted? People with dementia often get confused, so when they come out of the toilet or chapel can they find their way back? Because dementia is a disease of the brain, and different parts of the brain can be affected causing a whole variety of symptoms, it’s fair to say that if your premises pass the dementia test, then they are fit to accommodate those with all other disabilities and frailties.

The second aspect that a dementia friendly business should consider is the workforce. We work in a profession that probably employs a greater number of older people than any other. Thus, there is an increasing chance that a member of your staff may develop dementia. Because we work, usually in a very ordered and organised way, symptoms of memory loss and confusion may be more evident to us that even to family members, where home life is a more relaxed environment.

Once a diagnosis is given, we have a legal obligation to support that employee by making reasonable changes to their role so that they may continue to work. In a similar way, we have an increasing chance of employing those who are family dementia carers. Caring for a relative with dementia is often a demanding 24/7 role and so the probability of that member of staff requesting flexible working hours is great. Again, we have a legal responsibility as employers to make that provision wherever possible.

All across the UK the Alzheimer’s Society is encouraging businesses to be dementia friendly. As we have done in many arenas over the past 25 years, SAIF is leading the charge for this profession.
SAIF and its members, united against dementia!

For more information, contact the SAIF Business Centre on 01279 726777 or email SAIF about engaging with this unique opportunity.

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