Public Housing-Supporting Residents with Dementia: Lessons from Ireland

I met Dr. John McPeake the CEO from Helm Housing Association in Northern Ireland recently and had the pleasure of hearing about how his agency is working on helping those with dementia.  .  Dr. McPeake let us know that in the UK the average age exceeded 40 for the first time in its history.  By 2040, almost 1 out of 3 persons will be elderly.  With these changes social housing organizations must prepare themselves for the illnesses and issues that come with aging.  The speaker believes that dementia is one of the toughest challenges to face.

In the UK, the costs of dealing with dementia are higher than cancer and heart disease and will continue to climb.   To respond, there are 3 ideas he recommends:

  1. Ensure staff understand dementia: Their agency actually created dementia champions who are highly trained to understand and respond to dementia.
  2. Design and build specifically for the needs of those with dementia.
  3. Build dementia friendly communities:

Hemsworth Court is a place where only persons with dementia live and the design practices allow dementia patients to live and function successfully.  “Accommodation is intensively supported housing. These schemes provide an environment where frail older people can achieve maximum independence, whilst receiving the care and attention they need.  A comprehensive range of services are tailored to meet individual needs to ensure that privacy and dignity are respected at all times.”- See website here All support and care is provided by Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.

It is helpful to build and design in a way that supports those with dementia.  With that said, they are doing a lot of renovation on existing stock to help dementia patients.  “”We have specific signage or memory aids signposting people to where they live. For example, while each apartment has a number it also has a motif, or picture, which acts as a memory jogger for those with dementia,”  says manager Olivia Clarke in a BBC article found here.

The ravages of dementia will continue to grow as time goes on.  There is a video that gives more information on the work being done by this wonderful housing association.

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