Together for a dementia-friendly Bruges!

Together for a dementia-friendly Bruges! is a long-term awareness-building programme aimed at fighting the stigma associated with dementia.

Expertisecentrum Dementie Foton (Foton) founded the initiative Together for a dementia-friendly Bruges! in 2010 with the aim of improving the quality of life of people with dementia and their environment by bringing about a change in thinking about dementia among all citizens, organisations, businesses, institutions and officials. The intention is that this will lead to more respectful and equal communication and interaction.

In 2010 an initial meeting took place to discuss how to make Bruges more dementia friendly. More meetings were organised with specific target groups such as schools and education centres, societies, local economy, the cultural sector and neighbourhoods. The outcome of all these meetings was a 5-year action plan.

Together for a dementia-friendly Bruges! aims to:

  • highlight and support the abilities of the people with dementia
  • promote the social (re)integration of people with dementia in their immediate surroundings and in the wider community
  • contribute to the quality of life of the people with dementia and their environment
  • seek an active participation of the people with dementia in their environment
  • create an atmosphere of solidarity and joint commitment between generations
  • create and support cooperation between different sectors of the urban community
  • promote the civic and communal responsibility from an urban community for a vulnerable group
  • contribute to humane and quality-minded care and attention for people with dementia and their environment within the urban community

Foton is a dementia expertise centre, which offers information about dementia, including a dementia library, and a home counselling service. For ten years, they have run a meeting group at their accessible walk-in house which supports people with dementia to talk to each other and share their experiences. The walk-in house is also the base for a range of other activities including musical afternoons, literary evenings, the Foton choir, seasonal celebrations and the Kopje Troost (Cup of Comfort) meeting space. The work of Foton is supported by the commitment of specialised dementia volunteers.

Among the initiatives developed so far are:

  • A campaign website, which contains information and news about the campaign and a section where people with dementia, carers and family members can share their experiences and thoughts on how Bruges could be made more dementia friendly.
  • A campaign logo. Several logos were designed by a student, with the final logo, a knotted handkerchief, being chosen by people with dementia.
  • A dementia guide, which provides information about what dementia support and services are available in Bruges as well as tips for communicating with a person with dementia. The compact guide is free and distrubuted through a range of businesses and care services throughout the city.
  • A training programme for local businesses, service centres and other groups
  • The Missing Project Bruges. Foton work with local police and the 101 emergency centre on this project, which has seen the development of a protocol and identification system for finding people with dementia if they go missing. Implementation was initially introduced in residential care facilities and rolled out further to those cared for at home in 2015.
  • The customer remains king short film. This film, aimed at local traders and shopkeepers, explains the impact their service and business environment can have on people with dementia through four short stories. The film is widely available and is also used during training programmes.

A key goal within all of Foton’s work is creating awareness of dementia and their contact with people with dementia and their families is focused on making dementia more open for discussion in the whole wide community. Foton explain that through they awareness-raising activities they ‘hope to contribute to a more nuanced view on dementia. Creating awareness remains a long and enduring process which takes a lot of work, but in which we make small steps of progress and which we will most certainly not give up.’