THE West Somerset Free Press has become one of the latest businesses to join Watchet and Surrounds Dementia Action Alliance.
The organisation is allied to the Alzheimer’s Society, the dementia support and research charity, and aims to create a dementia friendly community for people with the disease and their carers.
Now the local alliance has spread from Watchet to Williton and surrounding areas, while Minehead has a separate, larger Dementia Action Alliance.
“We started in Watchet which seemed ideal, and now things are spreading in Williton and surrounding areas too,” said Watchet alliance lead Margaret Tatham.
Margaret was already a Dementia Friendly Champion when she heard about the Dementia Friendly campaign to make communities as helpful as possible for people with dementia.
The word dementia describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language, and it is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases such as Alzheimer’s, or a series of strokes.
“People think dementia is about an old person in a care home but a lot of people with dementia are living in the community, driving, going to the pub, to church, playing bowls.
“We are working to make the community dementia friendly and have about 25 businesses and organisations joined up in Watchet and Williton – from a doctors’ surgery to a funeral director, a supermarket and churches to an optician and bowls’ club,” said Margaret.
By becoming Dementia Friendly, businesses or organisations commit to seeing how they can help and discuss this with the alliance - whether it is supporting people with dementia when they go in a shop, or putting up clear signage to and from the toilets in a café.
The Free Press has pledged to raise staff awareness of dementia, to promote approaches and events and to make its offices dementia friendly, among other commitments.
The alliance also works with Knight’s Templar First School in Watchet, and runs the Forget-Me-Not-Café fortnightly in the town, for carers and people with dementia.
Margaret said the alliance was thrilled to be runners up in the small town category at a glittering award ceremony in London at the end of last year, for awards given by the Alzheimer’s Society.
“It gave lots of publicity to the initiative, and there are now hundreds of Dementia Action Alliances all over the country,” she said.