• Carol Barron

What it means to be dementia friendly?

This article was first published in eMessenger in July 2021.

Wesley Community Action has become the first Methodist organisation, and one of only nine organisations around the motu, to be accredited with Alzheimers New Zealand’s Dementia Friendly Award. This accreditation affirms the values of Wesley Community Action’s Te Ara Wēteriana – the Wesley Way which is the framework that guides how staff interact with each other and the people they work alongside.

The accreditation means Wesley Community Action has met all seven dementia-friendly standards which show we’re a safe, friendly, accepting, and supportive place for people with dementia.

The process to become dementia friendly began in late 2019 but was delayed by the Covid-19 lockdown. The final part of the process which included physical audits of three sites and meetings with staff and people who use their services (including people living with dementia) took place in September.

David Hanna (2nd left) and Claire Booth (right) were presented with Alzheimers New Zealand’s Dementia Friendly Award certificate after completing the accreditation process in October last year.

Kate MacIntyre, a member of the Dementia-Friendly audit team, says they were particularly impressed by how committed Wesley Community Action staff are to working in a respectful, inclusive, kind and compassionate way – all of which are essential to being dementia friendly and are also integral to Te Ara Wēteriana - The Wesley Way. “The way staff talked about The Wesley Way showed they really understood it and actually lived it, rather than it just being glossy values up on the wall,” says Kate, who is Alzheimer New Zealand’s Dementia-Friendly Coordinator.

The accreditation process helped highlight the fact that dementia affects everybody; including staff who may have whānau members living with dementia, or who may one day develop dementia themselves. The process was initiated and driven by Claire Booth, leader of the Wesley Community Action Elder Care Team, with support from the board and staff. Claire says that through her work with older people, particularly vulnerable older people, she has become increasingly aware of the need to do more to meet the needs of our ageing population. At present about 70,000 Kiwis live with dementia. That number is expected to increase to 170,000 by 2050. Most people with dementia – about 70% – live in the community.

Clare says, “This is not a theoretical thing that will happen in the future, it’s happening now and as a nation we-are ill-equipped to deal with it. People with dementia are already living in the community and engaging with banks and post offices and utility companies, often with very little support.”

Being dementia friendly is particularly relevant for Wesley Community Action because dementia disproportionately affects many of the communities the organisation works with – vulnerable people living in poverty. These people are more likely to develop dementia and become isolated, and less likely to get access to appropriate support services and resources. “As an organisation we’re committed to helping grow resilient communities and in order to grow resilient communities we have to start taking dementia into consideration,” states Clare.

The Dementia Friendly Recognition Programme is one of three run by Alzheimers New Zealand to help build a dementia-friendly Aotearoa New Zealand. The others are the Dementia Friends programme and the Dementia Friendly Communities Programme. The Dementia Friends programme is a 20-30 minute education programme which can be completed on line where you can learn about what it is like to live with dementia and make a commitment to take action that will help someone or people with dementia to live well. Alzheimers New Zealand says that even very small actions make a big difference and suggest that you bring three things – patience, friendship and laughter. You can find out more at their website

My mother in law, has dementia and so I know how difficult it is for people living with dementia to communicate with others and the limitations these diseases imposes on their every-day living. I am very impressed with the work that Wesley Community Action has done to become a Dementia Friendly organisation and congratulate them on their award.

If you would like more information about how you can support the Methodist Alliance, or the Methodist Missions, please check out their websites or contact me.

Carol Barron, National Coordinator

03 375 0512 | 027 561 9164 |

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