Dementia Friendly Communities (DFCs) are one way of helping people affected by dementia to keep active and in their local community. The Prime Minister’s Challenge in 2015 pledged that by 2020 over half of England’s population will be living in a DFC. As of July 2020, there are approximately 350 dementia friendly communities in England according to Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friends website. If you would like to visit the Dementia Friends’ website please click here.
The DEMCOM study was funded by the Department of Health and Social Care to carry out a national evaluation of DFCs. The study ran from January 2017 to July 2019. It evaluated how DFCs support people living with dementia and their carers, the approaches that have worked best, and how to keep DFCs going.
DEMCOM used a mix of research methods including: a scoping review, data on how many people have dementia in the population, linking this geographically with DFC activities, a survey and detailed case studies of DFCs. The case studies took an evaluation framework that was originally used to evaluate Age Friendly Communities, and refined this. People living with and affected by dementia were involved throughout all phases of the study.
The main findings from this study are that:
- Across England, Dementia Friendly Communities are located in areas where they can have the greatest impact.
- The policy target that by 2020 over half of the population will be living within a DFC is being met.
- Policy support and a system for formal recognition (e.g. Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friendly Communities Programme which started in 2012) have provided motivation for DFCs in England. However, achieving this recognition requires strong local collaborations and leaders.
- Statutory services (e.g. local authority) as ‘anchor’ organisations were found to be important sources for funding, expertise and continuity of support.
- There was limited evidence of DFCs engaging with dementia risk reduction as part of wider public health activities.
- Sharing good practice within and between DFCs to establish what was being done, for whom and when, was important, but also difficult.
- Positive economic scenarios (from the economic evaluation) emphasised the importance of supporting DFCs in their evaluation efforts. This can confirm the social return on investment of DFCs and ensure their sustainability.
Outputs and impact
Since it’s completion in 2019, the DEMCOM study findings have:
- Been used by the Alzheimer’s Society community engagement and policy team on how they will extend and expand the work of DFCs and their evaluation.
- Been the focus of a national briefing event involving charities and organisations working with people affected by dementia
- Provided the basis for the launch event of the first dementia friendly community in Spain (https://www.fundaciocatalunya-lapedrera.com/en/dementia-friendly)
- Provided the basis for the briefing by Alzheimer’s Society to the World Dementia Council to report on the impact of meaningful Dementia Friendly initiatives and guidance for the global evaluation of DFCs.
- Been included in multiple future research bids.
- Produced three open access papers:
- Buckner, S., Darlington, N., Woodward, M., Buswell, M., Mathie, E., Arthur, A., ... & Goodman, C. (2019). Dementia friendly communities in England: a scoping study. International journal of geriatric psychiatry, 34(8), 1235-1243. https://doi.org/10.1002/gps.5123 (OPEN ACCESS)
- Woodward, M., Arthur, A., Darlington, N., Buckner, S., Killett, A., Thurman, J., ... & Goodman, C. (2019). The place for dementia‐friendly communities in England and its relationship with epidemiological need. International journal of geriatric psychiatry, 34(1), 67-71. https://doi.org/10.1002/gps.4987 (OPEN ACCESS)
- Darlington, N., Arthur, A., Woodward, M., Buckner, S., Killett, A., Lafortune, L., … & Goodman, C. (2020). A survey of the experience of living with dementia in a dementia-friendly community. Dementia. https://doi.org/10.1177/1471301220965552. (OPEN ACCESS)
- DEMCOM final summary report available from here
Work is currently underway to develop a resource to accompany the DEMCOM evaluation framework that can be used by DFCs at different stages of development and test this with additional DFCs in England.
University of Hertfordshire
Dr Andrea Mayrhofer
Dr Angela Dickinson
Dr Marina Buswell
University of Cambridge
Dr Stefanie Buckner
University of East Anglia
Professor Antony Arthur
Dr Anne Killett
Dr Michael Woodward
Dr Chris Skedgel
If you would like any more information about the DEMCOM study, or would like to get in contact, please contact Nicole Darlington (Senior Research Assistant, ARC East of England) at firstname.lastname@example.org
This is based on independent research commissioned and funded by the NIHR Policy Research Programme (Dementia Friendly Communities: The DEMCOM study, PR-R15-0116-21003). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR, the Department of Health and Social Care, ‘arms’ length bodies or other government departments. This is a collaboration between three universities who are all part of the Applied Research Collaboration East of England: University of Hertfordshire, University of East Anglia and University of Cambridge.