I’m a research assistant on a project that aims to set up a dementia supportive practice community across North Wales.
The aim is to share best practice, improve collaboration and increase the impact of ageing and dementia research in practice. My job is to organise meetings and events, help facilitate the meetings, and be the point of contact for the members of the network. Since April, we have identified and met with potential members, spread the word about the project around different organisations, and set up and held three meetings across North Wales. A variety of people attended the meetings, including people living with dementia, carers, activity coordinators, and research, Alzheimer’s Society, NHS, County Council and Age Cymru staff.
At the meetings we thought it was important to start by asking members what they hope to get from the network, for their own tips on how to be dementia supportive, and where they would like to take the network after the initial meetings. We also included an artistic workshop with the artist Lisa Carter, in which members had the opportunity to network further and to try something new together. Members consented to sharing their contact details with the rest of the network, and these have since been shared.
Feedback from the first meetings was very encouraging. People were happy to have had the opportunity to meet a variety of others with the same passion. For example, one person said, “It has been beneficial to link with more partners in order to achieve something for the people living with Dementia in NE Wales. I hope this group can meet again and create a plan of action to support Wales in becoming Dementia Friendly.” Another reported, “Enlightening open discussion with a range of perspectives- great collaboration”.
It also has become apparent that there is a lot going on within communities but that the information often doesn’t reach everyone: “Very interesting morning, can’t believe that there is so much happening out in the community. Enthused to join in and invite myself to other groups”, and “It is clear that there's a lot going on, but that's there a challenge to ensure the right people know the right things”.
The importance of having network members who are living with dementia was also expressed: “I have got a lot out of this morning- a very comfortable setting has been created for everyone to share their thoughts, views and ideas. I have loved hearing the voices of people living with dementia”, and “Very moving & positive outlook from Glenda. Feel very humbled”. And from the perspective of a network member who is living with dementia “The (Lost in Art) group is like a family, it's like a present, which I did not expect. I am no longer Lost in Art, I'm found.”
The artistic session brought more positive feedback. Some took away ideas for their work, “Enjoyed the day. Got some ideas to try with the individuals I work with”, and others enjoyed the benefits that come with the creativity, such as relaxation: “Fantastic session. Relaxing, rejuvenating, helps to have something to reduce anxiety. Reminder of how powerful art can be”, and communication, “Great session! Communication takes different forms!!”; “Really enjoyed the creative work session, sitting with others, talking & creating & sharing, beautiful pieces produced by people in room”.
We are currently organising the next set of meetings, for which the network members will decide the agenda and form partnerships and collaborations accordingly - and we are excited to see where things go from here!