Extra Support for Kiama’s Dementia Friendly Community

Kiama's dementia friendly community
Kiama's dementia friendly community

The Dementia Friendly Kiama Alliance was recently awarded funding from the Turnbull government to support the Dementia Friendly Kiama project. Since its launch in 2014, the collaboration between the University of Wollongong, Dementia Australia and Kiama Municipal Council has transformed the NSW town into one of Australia’s first dementia-friendly communities.

Member for Gilmore Mrs Sudmalis said last Friday that she welcomed the $15000 grant “for a project which has already strengthened our community spirit”.

residents had significantly higher expectations of interactions with people living with dementia

“The Kiama Dementia Action Plan includes support for people with dementia to remain actively involved in the community and increased awareness to reduce any stigma around the condition.”

Success through community involvement

Kiama Council member Nick Guggisberg said empowerment and inclusion of people living with dementia has been key to the project’s success.

“We have put people with dementia at the centre and the forefront of the project.”

As well as being part of the Dementia Friendly Alliance, Kiama residents with dementia and their carers advise the project through Kiama’s Dementia Friendly Advisory Group.

It’s interesting that the impact of the project is beyond what we’ve even measured

This, along with community education on the illness, has challenged a “very strong stigma around dementia”, according to Mr Guggisberg.

“One of the most successful aspects of the project has been to get people talking about dementia, and understanding it, getting a deeper and more complex understanding on what it means to live with dementia… that in itself ends up breaking down the barriers.”

A 2016 report by the University of Wollongong found Kiama residents had significantly higher expectations of interactions with people living with dementia than in 2014. The findings were published in Dementia: The international journal of research and practice on January 18.

Dementia-friendly local business in Kiama

According to Mr Guggisberg this improved understanding of dementia is also evident in local business. Despite only one local organisation formally participating in the project, some businesses “are seen as being dementia friendly”.

“Speak N Easy is a café here where people like to go – they feel comfortable going. Milk & Honey is another café.”

“We felt like we’d failed on all sorts of levels. But as it turns out there’s been this – vicarious, if you like – improvement and impact, positive impact in the business sector.”

“So it’s interesting that the impact of the project is beyond what we’ve even measured.”

Three other projects also received funding as part of the federal government’s five-year Boosting Dementia Research and Dementia Friendly Communities initiative.

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