Charity launches guide to help tackle national dementia crisis

Guidance on how to reflect the needs of people with dementia in housing services is to be launched to coincide with a national conference this month.

Arising from a survey conducted by the Midlands-based charity Orbit Charitable Trust (OCT) last year, this invaluable guide will help housing organisations tackle the challenge of rising levels of dementia in the UK.

Aimed primarily at small housing associations, but equally useful for all housing providers, the free guide looks at how social landlords can work with care, charity and community partners to improve support for older people living with dementia to improve their quality of life and maintain their independence for longer.

It provides guidance on creating an action plan to become a ‘dementia friendly’ organisation and offers best practice examples of successful initiatives piloted by housing providers across the country.

The step-by-step guide is part of a report, ‘Working with smaller housing organisations to create dementia friendly organisations’, to be officially unveiled at the annual conference of the Housing Learning and Improvement Network (Housing LIN) in London on 18th February.

Welcoming the publication, Housing LIN Director Jeremy Porteus said:

“This guide follows extensive research by Orbit Charitable Trust which highlighted the need to improve the level of awareness of dementia among housing providers.

“There needs to be better ways of assisting residents and their carers get the support they need for everyday living. The challenge for the wold of housing is to be more aware of the different types of dementia and put in place dementia-friendly policies, practices and procedures.“

As well as the Housing LIN, OCT’s work has been supported by Orbit Group, the Chartered Institute of Housing and the National Housing Federation. It follows the government’s launch in 2012 of the Dementia Challenge, when Prime Minister David Cameron described the ongoing national rise in dementia cases as a “quiet crisis”.

Mr Cameron called for the UK to become a world leader in dementia research, the creation of dementia-friendly communities and greater awareness among health care professionals.

There are currently 800,000 people with dementia in the UK. That figure is set to rise to over a million by 2021 and it is estimated that one in three people over 65 will die with the condition.

David Hucker, Chairman of OCT, said:

“Dementia is a ticking time bomb and we have to do everything we can to make sure that housing providers have adequate provision in place to provide for the needs of people who are living with the condition.”

Orbit Group both supported and co-funded the work and Vicky Harwood, Director of Orbit Independent Living, said:

“Housing providers can make a vital contribution to enabling residents to live well and safely in more dementia friendly communities. A range of practical actions and advice tailored to the work of the housing sector as well as links to further advice and information can help providers better understand and play a role in meeting the needs of the growing number of people in our communities who are living with dementia.”

The guide to creating dementia friendly organisations stems from OCT’s first major research project, which began in 2010, into how social housing providers and other organisations could work together to develop services which would improve vulnerable older people’s quality of life.

In it, OCT crusades a person-centred approach, treating people as individuals and ensuring services focus on their priorities, to enable older people to live independently in their own homes for as long as possible.

The latest project included a day-long workshop where a number of small housing associations, looked at their existing service provision, examples of best practice and what improvements could be made.

Four of the housing associations – Heantun, Innisfree, Waltham Forest and Racing Homes – will continue to work with OCT during 2014 to see how they have changed their approach and services so that examples of successful dementia friendly initiatives can be shared.

OCT’s new guide offers advice and guidance to housing and care organisations on developing a strategy for supporting people with dementia and gearing up their organisations to provide the right services.

The report covers subjects such as the importance of identifying needs, staff skills and training, consulting with stakeholders, awareness raising, assistive technology and other ways to improve support for people living with dementia.

The report also includes details of specialist organisations and resources which can further help in making organisations more dementia friendly, including the Alzheimer’s Society. Anna Dowrick, Policy Advisor for the Alzheimer’s Society, added:

“I think it is a very optimistic report which provides useful, practical advice about how smaller housing associations can incorporate dementia into their planning.”

OCT’s free guide can be downloaded by going to