15 May 2023

Leading the way on housing and dementia

It is estimated that just under one million people across the UK are living with dementia, and as our population continues to age, that number is going to increase significantly.

We know that most people want to stay in their own home as they get older and having the right home and support is key living well with dementia. If you work in housing, at some point you will be working with someone who has dementia whether that’s directly in a customer facing role, or indirectly through designing or delivering homes, policies or services.

That’s why CIH Scotland has been focusing on housing and dementia for a number of years now, and we think our learning can help people across the UK.

In 2017 we published our Dementia Pathways research and practitioner guide setting out the role of housing in supporting people with dementia, from spotting the early signs of dementia to incorporating dementia friendly design and policies throughout housing organisations. We think that everyone who works in housing needs at least a basic awareness of dementia and how it can affect people’s day to day lives.

The Dementia Friends programme is a really easy way to find out about dementia through a quick online introduction, or in person information session. Of course, different roles will need different types of training and we’ve collated some of the different options available for our members across Scotland.

We followed our research with the launch of the Housing and Dementia Framework in partnership with NHS Scotland’s Improvement Hub and Alzheimer Scotland in 2019. The Framework was designed with the sector and people with lived experience of dementia and their families and carers, to help housing organisations identify what they are already doing to support people with dementia, and where better practice can be adopted.

The Framework includes lots of examples and resources, but it was designed to be flexible, to allow organisations to tailor actions to suit their staff and communities and what can be done within their existing resources. Even small actions can make a big difference.

While there’s still work to be done, tenants in the social rented sector are far more likely to get the help they need. In Scotland we’re working with the Government to strive for more, for better housing outcomes for everyone with dementia regardless of their tenure. We co-chaired the National Housing and Dementia Forum in 2021/22 gathering evidence from experts across the housing and built environment, health and social care, the third sector, and from people with lived experience of dementia publishing a set of recommendations last year.

We hope that our findings will inform the Scottish Government’s next National Dementia Strategy due to be published later this month, ensuring that housing needs are embedded within conversations about dementia and considered as part of person-centred care going forward.

So, what is the most important lesson of all? Communication is key. We need to listen to the people who matter – our tenants and wider communities – and make sure that we communicate in a way that is accessible, helping people to think about their housing needs and plan for the future.

You can find out what good housing means to people living with dementia by watching this short video we made with members of the Scottish Dementia Working Group.

Written by Ashley Campbell

Ashley is the policy and practice manager at CIH Scotland.