Critical role of housing in supporting people with dementia highlighted during Dementia Awareness Week
As Dementia Awareness Week gets underway, our policy and practice officer Susanne Flynn highlights recent research and practice guidance published by CIH Scotland which shows the critical role of housing in helping people to live well with dementia.
This week (4th to 10th June) is Dementia Awareness Week in Scotland, an initiative being led by Alzheimer Scotland to ensure that people living with dementia feel supported, recognised and valued in their local communities. 90,000 people currently live with dementia in Scotland, with new diagnoses expected to reach almost 20,000 by 2020.
In 2016, as part of its housing and dementia programme, CIH Scotland commissioned housing consultancy Arneil Johnston to deliver new research and practice guidance focused on improving the links between housing organisations and partners in health, social care and the third sector, with a specific emphasis on the role of housing practitioners in meeting the needs of those living with dementia.
The research, entitled Dementia Pathways: Housing’s Role was published in March 2017 and mapped out the role of housing staff and services across four key interactions (or pathways), which form important stages of the dementia journey:
- assisting and supporting early diagnosis;
- early assessment of the suitability of the home of someone living with dementia;
- enabling a person with dementia to remain at or return home quickly; and
- ensuring holistic consideration of assistance and support as dementia progresses.
An accompanying practice guide was published in November which helps practitioners to consider housing’s role during each dementia pathway, provides details of emerging practice in the sector, and includes a checklist of key knowledge areas and skills which are vital to delivering effective support. The guide also includes a number of practical recommendations for how the sector as a whole can make a real difference to people affected by dementia, their carers and their families by:
- accepting that the scale of dementia requires a higher level of strategic and frontline priority from housing organisations;
- using a housing options approach to facilitate independent living;
- developing effective partnership working across housing services and other organisations to maximise the quality of outcomes; and
- promoting housing’s wider role in enabling independence beyond the physical and home environments to partner organisations.
The aim of the research is to enable an improved understanding of the critical role of housing in dementia care, by clearly setting out the contribution that housing staff and services can make, and ensuring that staff awareness and skills around dementia support are as good as they can be.
The findings have also been highlighted in Scotland’s National Dementia Strategy 2017 – 2020, with the Scottish Government committing to work with national and local stakeholders to support people to live safely and independently at home for as long as possible.
It is not yet clear how widely the research recommendations have been adopted by housing providers, Integrated Joint Boards, and local authorities, but we want to see the Scottish Government driving forward the importance of housing’s role in dementia support when it comes to local planning.
Dementia Awareness Week runs from the 4th to the 10th of June and you can find further information about how you can get involved on the Alzheimer Scotland website.