The community spirit is strong in the north-west NSW town of Narrabri, where multiple groups have worked together to make their community more accepting and inclusive of people living with dementia, their families and carers.
The Narrabri Dementia Alliance, locally called the Narrabri Steering Committee, was established in 2016 and was the recipient of a $15,000 Dementia Australia Community Engagement Program Grant in 2018 and this is the story of their journey so far.
The Narrabri Steering Committee
It’s all hands on deck with the steering committee working with local people living with dementia, their families and carers, the local business chamber, council, health care and aged care services, social and sporting clubs, high school, and the local newspaper.
The Committee strives to create a dementia-friendly community through education, partnerships and promotion and for dementia-friendly principles to be considered in community and business planning, staffing and infrastructure. While the group has focused on Narrabri, the grant has helped spread the effort to neighbouring towns Wee Waa and Boggabri within the Narrabri local government area.
Achievements (to date)
Raising awareness of dementia and its impacts through:
- Dementia Friend sign-ups at community morning teas, presentations at social club meetings (for example Rotary), and through local social media networks.
- Dementia Friend training for all front-of-house Council staff, including library staff who are holding regular community brain training activities.
- Working with the local high school to include Dementia Friend training for students aged 14 years or older, to ensure an intergenerational empathy for people living with dementia. The textile teacher has also incorporated the creation of weighted rugs, quilts and blankets into her class and these will be hand-delivered by students as they visit local aged care facilities.
- A town-wide ‘book club’ for the book Still Alice, with 60 copies of the book purchased and distributed across town in cafes, GP waiting rooms, the hospital and pharmacies. The film Still Alice was also shown during Senior’s Week.
The Steering Committee has also encouraged that dementia-friendly principles are considered when the Narrabri Council and local businesses refurbish or change the layout of their business. For example, the Tourist Information Centre is renewing the signage of public restrooms, and café staff are reviewing menu presentations. The committee is working with two local supermarkets with a view to trialing a ‘quiet shopping period’ for a few hours a week for people living with dementia and anyone else who would benefit from a lower noise and stimulation shopping experience.
The Narrabri Community Garden Project will also devote a part of their garden to be dementia-friendly and people living with dementia and their carers are invited to visit regularly.
Advice to others considering becoming a Dementia Friendly Community
The involvement of people living with dementia is critical to the project but it is challenging to have long-term involvement as the progressive nature of the illness impacts on people’s capacity to be actively engaged. There have been a number of people living with dementia, and carers, who have contributed over time and some are no longer with the Committee.
However, the people living with dementia, and their carers past and present who have been involved have brought invaluable contributions, as has the local dementia carer support worker who has shared considerable knowledge with the committee.
Change takes time, commitment and persistence but there is enormous goodwill and interest in the project and the grant funding has helped progress the project.
Are you interested in what this could look like in your community?
The first step is to become a Dementia Friend. Find out more at dementiafriendly.org.au or call our National Dementia Helpline 1800 500 100.