India - Dementia Friendly Communities

As far back as 2004, the Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI) were discussing ways in which to make the city of Cochin dementia friendly. The project was officially launched in 2011 with the key aim of raising awareness. Activities included dementia training programmes for school children, dementia care tasters for student practitioners and skills training for care home staff. Volunteers are also trained to become Dementia Guides.

In attempting to define what dementia friendliness and dementia friendly communities means to India, ARDSI conducted five workshops in different parts of the country: Trivandrum, Chennai, Bengaluru, New Delhi and Cochin. Two hundred participants, including family carers, health and social care professionals and the public attended the sessions. The workshops encouraged participants to identify the challenges associated with establishing dementia friendly communities. The themes which emerged in these sessions were: governmental involvement and partnership working; creating awareness; training of health care professionals; multidisciplinary care approach; a symbol for the dementia friendly community concept; and service development and support networks. Following on from the workshops, ARDSI is in the process of publishing national criteria for dementia friendly communities in India, which may also be useful for other low and middle income country settings.

 Following on from this work, a dementia friends campaign was launched in 2015 with a 10-day I am a Dementia Friend state-wide vehicle rally during which all 14 districts in Kerala were visited. Awareness-raising events and training were held for the public, schools and colleges, and senior associations, and all participants in the campaign pledged to be a Dementia Friend.

In 2017, ARDSI in Kerala led the Oormakootam (a collection of memories) campaign through the staging of a play, ‘Achan’ (Father) by a group of professional artists. The campaign used folk media to sensitise and create awareness in all 14 districts of Kerala state, covering it in a span of a week. The play had a powerful story line that included key messages for dementia friendliness. It depicted an old man with dementia living with a paid caregiver. His children were abroad and occurrences in everyday life were realistically portrayed, highlighting the importance of love and patience.

The play was preceded or followed by a talk on dementia. The aim of the campaign was to catch the attention of the audience, in order that they may think of how they could contribute to a dementia friendly society.

The key messages of the Oormakootam campaign were that dementia friendly initiatives are not just about awareness, but for everyone to help create a dementia friendly environment. People with dementia also needed to be embraced with love and affection, and enabled to continue to live their lives with meaning, purpose and value.