May 18, 2016, by Emma Thorne
Imagining a dementia-friendly University of Nottingham
This week The University of Nottingham will become a dementia-friendly institution. Professor Justine Schneider, Professor of Mental Health and Social Care, in our Faculty of Social Sciences, writes about this official recognition of the University’s commitment to raise awareness, improve working practices and pioneer world-class research to tackle this debilitating condition.
There is something apposite about a university – which runs on brain power – becoming dementia-friendly. It recognises that human beings have value beyond their intellectual capacity.
How can an institution whose purpose lies in developing intellectual potential also be dementia-friendly? We identified four ways that The University of Nottingham may be judged to be supportive towards individuals with dementia and their carers: in our education, research, organisational practice and public presence. As a university we aim to provide excellent dementia education across many faculties. We want our research on dementia to have international impact while being relevant to the lives of local people with dementia. Looking to our own organisation we aspire to exemplary and innovative employment practice, particularly regarding employees who are dementia carers. In the wider world, we are well placed to reduce stigma, dispel fear about dementia and create a more tolerant society towards individuals affected by dementia.
Western society is being affected profoundly by the growing prevalence of the incurable, degenerative group of brain disorders known as dementia. In the UK, dementia will affect one million people by 2025. Many of us will live with a failing memory for several years towards the end of life. Our expectations of old age are overshadowed by the probability of progressive memory loss, families are under pressure to support frail older members in the community, while health and social care services are struggling to meet the challenge of unprecedented numbers of older people living with memory loss.
The World Health Organisation and UK Government policy is to prioritise research and service development, recognising that change is also needed at grassroots level to engage entire communities in efforts to improve life for people with dementia and their carers. The UK Alzheimer’s Society launched two initiatives under the auspices of the Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge 2012. The University of Nottingham is already a member of the Nottinghamshire branch one of these programmes: the Dementia Action Alliance, a coalition of organisations which each undertake to implement a ‘Dementia Action Plan’ relevant to their purpose. Our action plan focuses on awareness-raising, volunteering opportunities, and excellence in teaching and research. The second programme fosters Dementia-Friendly Communities, where “people will be aware of and understand more about dementia; people with dementia and their carers will be encouraged to seek help and support; and people with dementia will feel included in their community, be more independent and have more choice and control over their lives.”
To demonstrate our commitment to becoming more dementia-friendly, in addition to the initiatives undertaken previously, we have been supporting two online campaigns: Dementia Friends and Join Dementia Research. In 2016, several hundred staff, students and alumni have signed up for both of these initiatives and more are welcome to join at www.idea.nottingham.ac.uk/pledge
On Thursday May 19 2016, our accreditation will be formally acknowledged by the Alzheimer’s Society. This will take place at a public seminar called ‘Dementia: University Challenge’ given by two respected leaders in the field, Mary Marshall and Jill Manthorpe, at 5-7pm in Room B63, Law & Social Sciences Building. The official strapline says ‘becoming dementia-friendly’, in recognition that the work of inclusion is never-ending. A committee of volunteers will carry it forward to ensure that we are true to our goal of making a real difference to the lives of the individuals with dementia and their carers who come into contact with The University of Nottingham.
Update: on Thursday 19 May the University was formally recognised with the below certificate from the Alzheimer’s Society.