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Update on evaluation of dementia-friendly communities

Dementia Action Week 2023 (Monday 18 to Sunday 24 September) reminds us: It is time to act now for a Dementia Friendly Future.

Presentation at dementia-friendly community meeting

A dementia-friendly community (DFC) is a place where people living with dementia are supported to live a high quality of life with meaning, purpose and value.

There are currently more than twenty DFC projects working across NSW, VIC, TAS, WA and QLD to raise dementia awareness and reduce the stigma, isolation and discrimination experienced by people living with dementia in their local area. However, despite their dedicated efforts, very few have had the resources and skills they need to evaluate the impact.

To build the evaluation capacity of DFCs, the Communities for Dementia research project has had a busy six months engaging in consultations and conversations, reviewing the literature and searching for easy to use tools and evaluation resources that can be used by communities to monitor and improve their activities.

What did we learn about DFC Evaluation?

Our consultations with 19 DFC members and eight Dementia Australia staff revealed DFCs were keen to undertake local self-evaluation activities. They wanted training to use simple tools that could assist them to understand their impact – including with people with dementia.

However, they also believed that others (e.g. governments, Dementia Australia and researchers) had important responsibilities and specialised skills that would be needed to comprehensively evaluate the impact of the program.

An analysis of DFC Action Plans was also undertaken to inform the creation of a common evaluation framework. The new framework focuses on common DFC areas of practice including: community education, engagement with local businesses, diverse activities and resources for people living with dementia (e.g. peer support groups; dementia cafes; and art, music and exercise-based activities).

Alongside this, the research team have also worked with a Stakeholder Advisory Group and Dementia Australia staff to co-design an evaluation toolkit for DFCs.

What’s happening next?

In the next six months the Communities for Dementia research project will work with six Dementia Friendly Communities Community Development Officers to use the evaluation framework and toolkit.

This will incorporate supporting and training DFCs to use the framework and developing evaluation measures or indicators appropriate to each community’s context, experience, and resources. The draft framework and toolkit will be adapted and refined as needed during this process.

Who is undertaking the research?

“We want to work with communities, building skills and tools to support the process of understanding their impact. Overall, the goal of this collaboration is to build the capacity of people at the grass roots to create even better places for people with dementia and their care partners,” said Assoc-Prof Lyn Phillipson.

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