Extensive two-year evaluation program demonstrates positive impact of Dementia Friendly Communities in Scotland

HammondCare was commissioned by the Life Changes Trust in Scotland to perform an independent evaluation of its Dementia Friendly Communities (DFCs) program. 

Three women, a mother, grandmother and daughter, laughing together

HammondCare was commissioned by the Life Changes Trust in Scotland to perform an independent evaluation of its Dementia Friendly Communities (DFCs) program. This major initiative funds 40 communities across Scotland, with the aim of transforming the lives of people living with dementia and unpaid carers.

The two-year evaluation examined a number of key indicators including whether DCFs are creating better lives for people living with dementia and unpaid carers and whether these communities are able to inform national and local dementia care policy.

Approximately 90,000 people are living with a diagnosis of dementia in Scotland and this number is expected to rise to 110,000 by 2030. After diagnosis, many people living with dementia can experience feelings of social isolation.

“While there is no fixed definition of what a Dementia Friendly Community is, they are united by the common purpose of supporting people living with dementia, and their unpaid carers, to be active and engaged community members. Above all, it is a place where the members feel safe, valued and respected,” explains Principal Investigator Dr Julie Christie, The Dementia Centre, HammondCare.

Launched today, the report “Dementia Friendly Communities: Evaluating the impact of Life Changes Trust funded Dementia Friendly Communities in Scotland” demonstrates:

  • The positive impact for people living with dementia and unpaid carers of being a member of a dementia friendly community
  • The benefits and challenges of a community development approach to delivering support for people with dementia and unpaid carers
  • A social return on investment demonstrating the significant social value of both a geographical community and a community of interest
  • The contribution of dementia friendly communities to pre and post-diagnostic support
  • Using a three-stage approach, the project evaluated 40 dementia friendly communities funded by Life Changes Trust across Scotland.

“It was critical at the beginning of the evaluation to get an understanding of what people with dementia and unpaid carers thought made a community dementia friendly,” explains Dr Christie. “We held a number of focus groups with stakeholders across DFCs, as well as investigating the value DFCs bring to the community as a whole.”

Some of the key findings from the report are:

  • Impactful DFCs are vibrant spaces made up of lots of different people, groups, ages, views, opinions, and interests. They are inclusive and there is space for everyone. They are not static but rather, evolve over time
  • People living with dementia are not simply recipients of support. The act of giving support and having purpose is as important as receiving support in DFCs, and brings the community to life as a responsive, reciprocal system
  • Sustainability and growth are ensured by harnessing the potential of community members in the form of their skills, knowledge, time and relationships
  • DFCs bring about real change and deliver practical and substantial support as part of Scotland’s ambitions for post-diagnostic support and personalised, community-based support

The report concludes that DFCs should be recognised as a model for delivering co-produced health and social care for people living with dementia and unpaid carers, and identified valuable opportunities to embed the model into government policy and practice.

“The evidence outlined in this independent evaluation report demonstrates that although Scottish Dementia Friendly Communities are about enabling people, they are about more than removing barriers: they are about building bridges,” says to Arlene Crockett, Director of Evidence and Influencing for the Dementia Programme at the Life Changes Trust.

“Reducing isolation and loneliness is one aspect of the work of dementia friendly communities, but the foundation of their work is building strong, lasting relationships and making rights real for people with dementia and their families.”

“It is our hope that this report will shape thinking on dementia friendly communities and inform the Fourth National Dementia Strategy of the Scottish Government,” says Ms Crockett.

Read the full reports or watch an animation highlighting the findings