How to get involved as an Individual

Quite often it’s the small things that mean the most, a friendly word, a smile, a gesture.
Inclusivity starts with one person: you. By getting involved, you are joining other individuals around Ireland who recognise that a community consists of all its people and that this is what makes it stronger.

Here are 6 actions that you, your family and friends can take to support people with dementia and their families.

The diagnosis of dementia is life-changing. But the person does not become the illness. That is why it is important that you don't treat someone differently because of the diagnosis.

1. See the person, not the dementia

What you can do

  • Listen to people living with dementia and their families to help you understand their perspective 
  • Communicate directly with the person with dementia. 
  • Be inclusive of them when speaking with other family members or in a group. Speak clearly and calmly - so that the person has enough time to understand information. 
  • Don’t assume that because a person has dementia they are no longer able to do day-to-day tasks or take part in social activities. They may need extra support or additional time. It’s important to give them this time and not to take over.
  • A person’s ability may change over the time of the disease, so how you engaged or helped last time may not be effective this time. You may need to change your approach.

2. Talk about Dementia

The more people know about dementia and how they can actively support this movement the bigger the impact will be. You can help by sharing your knowledge, be it through social media or talking to your colleagues, family and friends.

What you can do

  • Engage people in conversations about dementia 
  • Listen to the voice of a person with dementia
  • Challenge stereotypes and negative attitudes
  • Let people know about dementia inclusive initiatives in your community 
  • Join information talks on dementia

3. Ask how you can help

Have you ever been in a situation where you would have liked someone to ask “how can I help you”?

Imagine what a day for a person with dementia and their families is like. How this simple question could transform it. Only by asking, will you find out how you can be of support. You may be surprised that it is the little things that make a big difference.

What you can do

  • Ask whether the person needs help with their daily tasks
  • Support them with errands, such as shopping, bringing someone to their exercise class or choir
  • You might offer to spend time with a friend or to give a carer a break 
  • Offer to walk with them to where they want to go
  • Support them on travels or holidays

4. Stay in touch

“A friend in need is a friend indeed”. The importance of friendship can’t be overstated to those diagnosed with dementia and their families. It is vital not to shy away because of dementia and to continue being a friend.

What you can do

  • Ask yourself what made your friendship and how did you engage before the diagnosis?
  • Continue to be in touch by picking up the phone for a chat, calling around or having friends over 
  • Continue doing things together, like going for coffee, walks, sports 
  • Think about new ways to engage and spend time
  • Offer your support with daily tasks

5. Support the person to keep up hobbies and interests

Keeping active and enjoying hobbies is a vital part of life. To stay involved in community life and continue to socialise is important.
Dementia does not mean someone must stop doing the things they love, but as time goes on, they may need support to do so. Do not underestimate the difference you can make.
Whatever the interest may be, having the choice to continue doing them can bring extra joy to life.

What you can do

  • Support the person by encouraging participation 
  • Look at things you can enjoy together, like going to a movie, play, exhibition
  • Suggest new activities the person may like
  • Offer transport to an event or activity 
  • Look at the surroundings and see that they are easily accessible

6. Make sure your service or space is easy to use

“Put yourself in their shoes".

This helps to understand the challenges a person with dementia may have when using services or accessing spaces. It may also change attitudes towards that person.

What you can do

  • Talk to people with dementia and their families and find out what would help and support them
  • Include people with dementia and their family members in the design of new or existing services or spaces 
  • Talk to service providers and hear their thoughts on how they can support a person with dementia and their family.
  • Look at surroundings and spaces and see whether they are accessible and easy to use

Helpful resources to get you started