A new campaign has launched to ensure the voices of LGBTQ+ people with dementia are heard.
The programme, Bring Dementia Out, was designed and developed by LGBT Foundation, together with partners including the Alzheimer’s Society, the National Dementia Action Alliance, the National LBG&T Partnership, and Switchboard.
The campaign, which aims to establish an outreach programme to ensure LGBT+ people affected by dementia can access tailored help, information, and support, has already gained support from the sector, with Guinness selected as partners to extend the outreach programme over the next two years.
According to research published by the University of Surrey in 2017, older LGBT people had expressed concerns about their future housing, citing risks of homophobia and isolation.
These concerns are “exacerbated” for LGBT+ customers living with dementia, and those who live alone may be especially distant from families and may not have access to support services sensitive to their needs.
As part of reports released by the Alzheimer’s Society, the symptoms of dementia present challenges to anyone experiencing them, but may have implications for LGBT+ people.
For example, as the Alzheimer’s Society notes, memory problems might make it harder to remember who they have told about their sexual orientation or gender identity.
With a million people in the UK likely to be living with dementia by 2021, housing providers are said to play a vital role in supporting their customers to live independently for as long as possible.
As part of this awareness, Guinness embarked on a two-year Housing and Dementia project in 2016.
The outcomes included:
- Creating more dementia-friendly environments
- Providing improved information and dementia-awareness training for staff, contractors, and customers
- Tailoring services and systems to the needs of customers with dementia
After reviewing a recent evaluation by the Housing Learning and Improvement Network, Guinness found one of the recommendations they wanted to adopt was about the importance of supporting LGBT+ customers with dementia.
According to Guinness CEO Catriona Simons, the Bring Dementia Out programme presented the “perfect opportunity”, with 50% of the group’s colleagues already said to be ‘Dementia Friends’.
“Our sector provides a firm and obvious foundation for this programme, and Guinness can ensure it has national reach,” she said.
“We are just starting out, but over the next two years we will host events across the country, both in our specialised housing for older customers and in locations that provide access to our general needs customers – recognising the diverse population that we house, and recognising that dementia can affect younger customers, too.
“Neighbouring housing associations have an open invitation to join us at these events, so we can make sure as many people as possible benefit. Knowing what all our customers need helps us be a better landlord.
“We will also engage our business network to support the programme, which is a natural extension of the way we work with key partners to promote investment in our communities.
“We aim to reach at least 1,000 customers, and we’ll be publishing a report on our learnings.
“Our staff are motivated by making a difference to people’s lives,” she added.