Community and Dementia: Creating Better Lives Regional Events and Grants
On 1 May 2018 the Life Changes Trust held a conference in Perth to explore the subject of Human Rights, Citizenship and Dementia. This marked the beginning of a four-year tour to cover every health board area in Scotland, with the purpose of bringing together communities for shared learning, identifying the priorities of people living with dementia and unpaid carers in that area, and consideration of what could be done to better address those priorities. We call these collaborative learning conferences 'Community and Dementia: Creating Better Lives'
We will continue to run these conferences until 2022, although all of our events are currently being held on digital platforms, due to COVID-19.
Discussions with local partners before and after the conferences bring together people with a common aim: to effect positive change for people affected by dementia.
The Trust recognises that very often it is local, grassroots organisations which, by their very nature of being local, have the most immediate impact on people living with dementia, their families and unpaid carers. By ‘local projects’ we mean projects run in a local area by people who live or work in that local area.
Therefore, after each Creating Better Lives conference, we open up a small grants programme to which local organisations can apply to deliver work which will support people affected by dementia in their area. A local organisation/individual is then appointed to oversee and support the collaborative working and shared learning of the small grants recipients.
Our regional events are planned and delivered in partnership with local organisations, local people who are living with dementia and unpaid carers.
We do this in order to give those who have direct experience of dementia a meaningful voice in how they want to receive support locally.
Before the pandemic, activities include storytelling sessions for people with dementia, for unpaid carers and also for professionals (see below), dementia inclusive social events that bring together communities to enjoy each other’s company and we finished with a full conference. With COVID, we have been unable to host social events, but our conferences are still very well attended online and we continue to run storytelling sessions.
Storytelling and priorities
Prior to each of our conferences, we listen very carefully to what people living with dementia and those who care for them, as well as frontline professionals, say. We learn about what is important to them, where there are gaps in providing a caring and supportive community and how services could be better designed and delivered, putting the voice of people living with dementia and carers up front and centre. From these discussions, we compile a list of local priorities.
We have worked with the Village Storytelling Centre, using their well-developed skills. Storytellers use innovative yet comfortable approaches that draw out the experiences, views and aspirations of people with dementia and unpaid carers, to allow them to have their voices heard.
Often the people who meet each other during these sessions do not know each other at the beginning but feel they have developed a bond of friendship by the end of the session. Several sessions are run across the health board area over the course of a few days.
Watch Sam Rowe from the Storytelling Centre talk about storytelling sessions and how they can help people living with dementia and those who care for them talk about what is important to them.
The learning from the sessions are written into a report and distilled to common themes. These themes shape some of the discussion at the final conferences, so that the priorities of people with dementia and unpaid carers drive conversations and considerations on the day.
At the conferences, we hear from local projects on how they are working with people who live with dementia and their carers to create better lives and better communities. There are also discussions or Q&A sessions where the identified priorities are discussed and possible solutions/next steps are suggested. This information will be crucial to our influencing work around dementia, both locally and nationally.
Our first event was in Inverness in November 2018, with a second in Grampian in March 2019. Our third event was in Orkney in May 2019, then we went to the Western Isles in September 2019 and in November 2019, we visited Ayrshire & Arran. Our sixth 'Creating Better Lives' conference was our first to be held online, on the 26th November 2020, and it was for Edinburgh and the Lothians. On the 25th February, we held our Fife conference, and on the 1st April, our eighth conference was for the Tayside area. In May, we held both our Lanarkshire and Forth Valley conferences, and in July we held our Borders conference.
We will be uploading the recordings of our online conferences, as they happen.