Following Alzheimer’s Society’s annual Dementia Friendly Awards on 27 November, three local emergency services have been recognised nationally for their achievements in leading the sector by helping to support people with dementia to live safely in their local community.

Kent Fire and Rescue Service, Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust and Cleveland Police were all shortlisted for either a large or small ‘Dementia Friendly Organisation of the Year’, two of nine categories at the sixth prestigious Dementia Friendly Awards that celebrate individuals, organisations and communities who are leading and inspiring change to transform the lives of people with dementia, challenge misunderstandings and alter attitudes around dementia.

Keeping safe and well is important to everyone, but it may be more of a concern if a person has dementia. For instance, people with dementia may find it harder to manage everyday risks and may forget to turn things off such as the oven or gas or become confused about how things work or where they are. These services have been commended for going above and beyond to support people affected in their community.

The shortlisting of the services coincides with the launch of Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friendly Emergency Services guide, which sets out best practice for Emergency Services looking to support and assist people with dementia. In 2017, Emergency Services across the UK made a strategic commitment to become more dementia friendly and support people in their local community affected by dementia. Since 2017, 28 services have signed up to become dementia-friendly and the sector now has over 35,300 Dementia Friends. The release of the guide will help support services across the nation in meeting this goal, and the three services shortlisted are showcased in this guide.

Shortlisted for the large organisation section of the ‘Dementia Friendly Organisation of the Year’ category, the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust has been recognised for providing an invaluable service to over three million people across the country. Recognised by Alzheimer’s Society as a Dementia Friendly Organisation in 2017, the service involves people with dementia across its activities, from board meetings to training delivery. The Trust has also co-produced a dementia friendly leaflet with people living with the condition, advising residents about what to do in an emergency and how to get help in easy to understand language and pictures.

Alison Johnstone, Programme Manager for Dementia at the Welsh Ambulance Service said: “We are extremely honoured to be shortlisted for the Dementia Friendly Awards 2019. This acknowledgement is testament to the priority that the Trust has given to our dementia plan. As an organisation, we are fully committed to improving the experiences of people living with dementia. The relationships that we have nurtured and maintained with people affected by dementia remains at the heart of everything we do. This nomination means a lot for the selfless people on my team who have worked tirelessly to continue to improve our services for those who need them the most”

Cleveland Police, has also been recognised for taking extensive steps to support people with dementia in the local community, from signposting to local Alzheimer’s Society support on their vehicles to ensuring their station is dementia friendly by encouraging police officers to become Dementia Friends, the positive impact of the force’s dedication was shown in November 2018, when an 83-year-old resident was spotted walking by a Police Station only wearing a dressing gown and slippers on a cold night, without any identification. She was taken inside and was extremely frightened and disorientated. The officers, who were both Dementia Friends, were able to put her at ease and immediately made the necessary adaptations to be able to communicate with the individual.

Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger, who is also a recognised Dementia Champion, said: “There has been a great effort within Cleveland Police to establish themselves as a Dementia Friendly organisation, which I have supported enthusiastically. It’s important that the police reflect and understand the communities they serve and I’m pleased their work has been recognised nationally.

“The close partnership working we have in Cleveland means officers, staff, volunteers and police cadets have all been able to improve their knowledge and establish processes to help improve their service for people living with dementia.”

Another finalist, Kent Fire and Rescue Service, has made the majority of its staff (90%), Dementia Friends, produced a booklet for carers to provide advice on how to support people with dementia in the local community, and worked with Alzheimer’s Society to be an expert voice for other services wishing to become more dementia friendly.

Sean Bone-Knell, Director of Operations at Kent Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Here at Kent Fire and Rescue Service, offering extra support and help to those living with dementia is just a part of what we do as a service. However, for a number of years now, we have also been actively working to ensure members of our community truly understand dementia and the small things everyone can do to make a big difference.”

“These awards are a great opportunity to celebrate the good work taking place in communities around the UK, and so we are honoured to have been shortlisted this year. It’s vital for emergency services to meet the needs of those living with dementia and ensure everyone can live well within their community – it is something myself and our staff are incredibly passionate about promoting.”

Dementia is the 21st century’s biggest killer in the UK. Someone develops the condition every three minutes, but too many face it alone and without adequate support, even though two thirds of people with dementia live in their local community. Alzheimer’s Society is at the forefront of a movement to ensure everyone living with dementia is understood and included in society, with its Dementia Friends initiative being the largest of its kind, uniting over three million people to take action to change the way the nation thinks, talks and acts about dementia.

The three shortlisted services also help make up over 450 Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friendly communities across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which are helping to ensure people with dementia are better able to live the life they choose and are involved in their local communities.

Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society, said: “There are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK and this number is increasing. Having Emergency Services that understand the complexities of dementia and can respond to often distressed and frightened individuals is a lifeline, so this recognition of the fantastic work of the three organisations, who have gone above and beyond to support people with dementia in their local communities, is thoroughly deserved.

“Defeating dementia will take a societal response, where individuals, organisations and whole sectors are changing the way they think, talk and act about dementia. I would encourage every other fire, ambulance and police service to take a look at our Dementia Friendly Emergency Services Guide to create even more change.”

Find out more about how to become a Dementia Friendly Organisation by visiting their website.