Pioneer school leads the way in transforming dementia public awareness

People with dementia and their carers face a significant lack of understanding cutting right across public services and society.

Two thirds of people with dementia in the UK never receive a specialist diagnosis. That is over half a million tax payers, together with their carers, unable to access the help they need for a terminal illness.

Those that do receive a diagnosis can experience social exclusion mostly due to stigma, ignorance and lack of awareness.

Two misconceptions fuel this:

  1. Dementia is a normal part of ageing
  2. Nothing can be done about it

Some three years ago, my team at NHS West Midlands decided to tackle this by producing a free online resource (see nhslocal) to raise awareness of dementia in secondary school. After 60 minutes pupils should be able to understand:

  1. what Dementia means
  2. the challenges faced by carers
  3. innovative assistive technologies and their applications

Younger people are more keen to know about dementia than older people are. The school curriculum  supports learning about relationships and loss, illness and wellbeing, caring and compassion. Find out more on why raising dementia awareness in school is so valuable.

Because Dementia is an exemplar condition to introduce to schools, our model is now incorporated into the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia under Angela Rippon‘s Leadership. Over 20 pioneer schools across England are rolling this out as one of many ways to start a conversation about dementia in primary and secondary schools.

I was privileged to attend the final lesson on Dementia at Swanshurst School, Birmingham (thanks to BBC News for allowing me to share their footage on my blog).

14 year olds were so well briefed, they were inquiring about dementia subtypes e.g. Lewy Body Disease. They boasted an awareness of the latest Design Council award winning assistive technologies. Their questions suggested a good grasp of the link between wellbeing, lifestyle, heart and brain .

Mission accomplished!

Undoubtedly a successful collaboration, and all credit to the teachers involved who provided dynamic leadership and unwavering belief in the vision, sufficient to make it work.

Our pioneer schools can support a case for a brief focused intervention that sows the seeds of a sustainable dementia friendly society.

Small actions can have large consequences.

Let’s stop graduating any more generations ashamed of the D word!