Edinburgh, Scotland: On a Mission to Become Dementia-Friendly

Dementia is a growing problem worldwide, with five million Alzheimer's disease sufferers in the United States alone, according to the Alzheimer's Association. Now a city in Scotland is doing something to remove the stigma of dementia. The City of Edinburgh is becoming dementia-friendly, with a high-profile campaign to raise awareness of dementia and eliminate some of the negative stereotypes associated with Alzheimer's and related conditions that affect cognitive functioning.

Educating the Public

Edinburgh is home to almost 8,000 people diagnosed with dementia, and that number is projected to grow by two-thirds over the next two decades. Their plight is being highlighted on radio ads and posters, along with suggestions on ways to help. The campaign encourages others to be patient with dementia sufferers by including them in conversations, treating them with kindness and respect, involving them in activities, and simply being there as a friend.

Health, Social Care and Housing Convener, Councillor Ricky Henderson explained, "There are little things that everyone can do to support and encourage people with dementia so that they feel confident enough to continue with day-to-day activities such as shopping and getting out and about. This may be a friend with dementia or someone that they meet in the course of their job or in their local neighbourhood. We need the whole community to get on board and help us make Edinburgh a dementia friendly city."

An Amazing Dementia Village

The Edinburgh campaign is impressive, but it pales in comparison to the "dementia village" in Holland, where patients don't even realize they're in a sheltered environment. They live what appears on the surface to be a normal life, but the stores, restaurant, salon, theater, and other "businesses" are all staffed with caretakers who even monitor residents' safety in their homes. The residents can wander freely in the village, but they cannot leave its grounds and are sensitively redirected if they try to do so.

While such a facility doesn't exist in the United States, there are many resources for those coping with dementia and their families. Organizations like the Alzheimer's Association and the Alzheimer's and Dementia Resource Center offer things like information, support groups, and respite care for family members and caregivers. If home care isn't possible, there are residential facilities that specialize in caring for dementia patients.

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