With a million people in the UK likely to be living with dementia by 2021, housing providers have a vital role in supporting their customers to live independently for as long as possible. This is one of the conclusions of a report published by The Guinness Partnership.
The independent report was compiled by the Housing, Learning and Improvement Network, which brings together housing, health and social care professionals. The report assesses the work that Guinness has carried out, as it prepares for a future with more people living with dementia.
This work includes:
- Creating more dementia friendly environments, for both specialist and generic housing, looking at interior and exterior design. Small changes to the way in which buildings are designed can make a real difference to the lives of residents.
- Investing in a flagship extra care facility in Quayside, Totnes, using dementia friendly design – particularly looking at lighting, colour and signage. Quayside illustrates that safe, secure and well-designed homes, combined with reliable, adaptable and sensitive support, help those living with dementia to lead more independent and fulfilling lives.
- Providing improved information and increasing awareness for staff, contractors and customers about living with dementia. Guinness has developed a ‘flagging system’ for identifying and recording customers whose dementia means that they may require services, support or information to be delivered in a specific way. This enables services to take account of individual needs.
- Recruiting over 1,250 Dementia Friends amongst Guinness staff – nearly 50% of employees. The Dementia Friends training, as well as e-learning modules, is used to increase understanding of dementia and help staff spot dementia warning signs.
Wendy Wells, Head of Policy and Business Implementation for The Guinness Partnership, and the business’s dementia expert, said: “As a major provider of social housing, we have a responsibility to do whatever we can to prepare for a future with more people living with dementia. By playing our part, we can already see benefits in increasing customer satisfaction, better tenancy sustainment and improved relationships with support services.“
Improved engagement with external agencies around dementia has also meant that Guinness is able to influence and shape future policy relating to housing and dementia. As part of the Dementia Housing Working Group, Guinness has helped shape the national Dementia Friendly Housing Charter, designed to help all housing professionals support people living with dementia and facilitate consistency and good practice across the sector.
Jeremy Porteus, Chief Executive, Housing Learning and Improvement Network, who compiled the report, said: “This report highlights that The Guinness Partnership recognises the scale of the dementia awareness challenge. Guinness has not just invested in the physical buildings, but in training and research – meaning that it can tailor its services. And because staff awareness is so much higher, dementia friendly thinking is part of Guinness’s day-to-day approach.”
Tamsin Fraser, Alzheimer’s Society Head of Community Engagement said: “It’s great to see Guinness lead the way in terms of dementia friendly housing, which will improve the lives of many people living with dementia.
“Our research found 85% of people want to stay living at home for as long as possible when diagnosed with dementia, but a third wouldn’t know how to make their home and living environment suitable – so the housing sector has a vital role to play in creating a more dementia friendly world.
“People with dementia have the right to live the life they choose for as long as possible, but all too often they aren’t supported to do so. Well-designed housing can boost independence, reduce anxiety and help people with dementia to live in the community for longer. The housing sector must unite to future-proof society and make sure everyone gets the support they need.”
Tom Walker, Deputy Chief Executive, Homes England, said: “The housing sector has a vital role to play in creating a more dementia friendly world. This includes the design of buildings and their surroundings, so that people who are living with dementia can continue to live independently.
“We welcome the work being carried out by The Guinness Partnership in becoming a more dementia friendly organisation and we look forward to continuing to work with Guinness on this important issue.”
The ‘Independent Evaluation of The Guinness Partnership’s Dementia Project’ was launched in Leeds last week by Wendy Wells at the joint Guinness, Housing & Care21, Housing Learning and Improvement Network and Northern Housing Consortium Conference: ‘Housing – rising to the dementia challenge’.