This week we launch our Whose Shoes?® Dementia Friendly Communities project in West Kent.
We were approached by some really passionate people running Age UK branches in West Kent who wanted to do something innovative and engaging around promoting Dementia Friendly communities. They had heard about Whose Shoes?® and thought it would be the perfect tool and approach to engage with people from their local communities and see how things could join up better and offer good quality of life for people living with dementia and their carers.
There has been quite a build up. Sandra Springett and two colleagues travelled up to our workshop in Birmingham in January, in partnership with Skills for Health, to experience Whose Shoes?® and see how we could best work together to adapt the content for their local needs.
You can see Sandra and colleagues on this video talking a lot of common sense – which is always a winner with me 😉
And Mike Ewins (who wrote a great guest blog about people in care homes who do not have external visitors) wrote a Storify making a great record of the day:
And people liked what they saw – or more importantly, what they experienced because Whose Shoes? is about people connecting, discussing the real issues and finding the answers for themselves.
#KentDigicare is a big part of the story – thank you Shirley Ayres
I am hugely excited by this Kent project but also a bit daunted.
On Twitter, we live in a world of #dementiachallengers where it is easy to meet like-minded people and drum up support for interesting initiatives. How do we fire up similar interest among the community at large? I certainly don’t have all the answers to this nor the resources of the Government’s / Alzheimer’s Society ‘Dementia Challenge’, aiming to muster a million dementia friends, but I do know that planting seeds, sparking fires, using people’s assets and believing in people can go a very long way…
We were initially asked to run 16 local Whose Shoes?® in four different localities. I had the idea of starting with a ‘launch event’ for as many different perspectives as possible, including many influential professionals, as a way of hopefully getting others on board to help us fire things up a bit.
Our launch event is this Wednesday (23 April).
And Twitter lures in some interesting people and sparks important conversations 😉
It is now oversubscribed but we would love it if people enquire and come along to our ‘locality’ sessions!
None of us can work alone. It is all about communities, connections, and networks.
Some fantastic work has been done to develop and explain these ideas by Helen Bevan and colleagues in the wonderful ‘School for Health and Care Radicals.” Take a look at the resources here and, arguably more importantly, the ethos of mutual support for #boatrockers (“Rocking the boat and staying in it”) that underpins it.
Regular blog readers / Twitter friends will know that I am just back from the fantastic #Quality2014 conference in Paris. I have written three blogs about this – before – during – and reflections after the event. This led to some really interesting comments and questions at the weekend on Twitter that are relevant to our Kent project.
And then a very interesting question from Neil in terms of the project outcomes…
Now perhaps at this point I should go dashing to the paperwork to look up the bullet points of what we have said we aim to deliver. But I don’t do this. I just fire something back straight from the heart because that is the nature of what I am doing. I know what I am trying to achieve. It is a big vision and it is evolving all the time as I meet with other people and learn, not locked into the words on paper on a shelf marked ‘projects’.
My frustration is starting to come through…
I KNOW there will be people living with dementia in Kent who would enjoy joining our conversations…
I KNOW that the people attending will learn things by sitting chatting to people living with dementia. Things they cannot learn in information leaflets or government videos.
I work closely now with Ken Howard and others who are living with dementia and breaking down so many stereotypes. I am disappointed Ken is not available on Wednesday as he was very keen to come to the launch – I will leave it to him another day to tell you the exciting reason he cannot come. But the point remains I should not need to ‘fly in’ people from 200 miles away, we need to find people to support each other locally and make sustainable connections – and then the fires will spread. ‘Nothing about us, without us’ must be at the forefront of a truly dementia-friendly community.
There have been some excellent blogs by Dr Shibley Rahman recently challenging the concept of ‘dementia friendly communities’ and ‘Dementia Friends.’
I love the way these issues can be looked at from so many different perspectives – the essence of the Whose Shoes? concept. Our sessions will give people a chance to explore things for themselves.
For example, we will ask what people expect to find if they see a “this shop is dementia-friendly” type sticker in the window.
The way to truly engage people is for them to own, to understand and believe, not just be told a few ‘key facts.’
I can understand the Butterfly Scheme.
Barbara Hodkinson has written about it in our ‘in my shoes’ series. It is not just a picture of a butterfly, it is a real symbol, describing a specific response to people in hospital with dementia and what they and their families can expect.
I am delighted that Dr Rahman is coming along to our launch event. We will be very open to his and everybody else’s suggestions about what more we can do to make our sessions valid, in terms of person-centred approaches for real people.
Kate Swaffer, the Chair of the Australian Advisory Group of people living with dementia has also written powerfully about dementia-friendly communities. I think the issues are broadly similar – after all we are all people. I have written quite a long comment on Kate’s blog – she will be delighted if you take a look and post comments too.
So, coming back to our Kent project, we need to catch the imagination of the local community businesses, schools, libraries, emergency services, leisure and transport, everyone who can make a difference to the daily quality of life of people living with dementia.
I have heard of far ‘bigger’ people that we are running expensive events to promote dementia friendly communities and getting nobody there. Our launch event is already over-subscribed but the ‘local’ events will rely more on local people spreading the word. That is why it is so important that we are working with such a passionate group of local people, co-ordinated by the wonderful Diane Aslett – real teamwork.
The challenge will be how do we involve people who DON’T already think about dementia, who DON’T have a family member.
It could be that ordinary banks and businesses need a strong “What’s in it for me?” factor to entice them through the door. Well, people with dementia and their families are your customers, and in growing numbers, so it is in your interests to look after them and serve them well.
The endorsement of a growing international band of people living with dementia of our Whose Shoes?® work gives me confidence that we are helping people speak out.
People coming along to our workshops will get a chance to make pledges – and join our NHS Change Day pledge
Meanwhile, I am hugely honoured to be one of the first few people in the world to be asked to be an Associate of the brand new Dementia International Alliance. I will tell you about this another time but our Kent project will be central to my role here and and how we can all work together for positive change.
Please add your comments and help us light some fires 😉