WORK is underway to make Swindon a dementia friendly place to live.

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, the Swindon Dementia Action Alliance is spreading the word that people living with dementia should feel included and valued as part of their community and making Swindon dementia friendly can help this.

"Dementia is high on the list of what people fear as they are growing older, but there are steps you can take to reduce the risk such as keeping physically and mentally active, reducing alcohol intake and eating a healthy diet – what’s good for your heart is also good for your head," a spokesman for the alliance said.

"Fear of dementia can also make people put their head in the sand and not go and see their GP about symptoms they may be having.

"However an early diagnosis can make a positive difference. There is no denying it will be an emotional time but diagnosis can lead to identifying services that can help, some welfare benefits you may be entitled to, and there are some drugs that can help keep people living with some types of dementia in the earlier stages for longer. Of course, the doctor may also discover you don’t have dementia but a different condition that shows similar symptoms but can be treated in a different way, such as infection, thyroid problems and depression for example."

But living with dementia is not all about doctors and medication. The spokesman added: "After a diagnosis, someone won’t magically change overnight, the label will stay there, but who that person was before that label was applied is still there too. It’s important to remember the person and what makes them happy in life and continue with this where possible.

"Being dementia friendly can also involve improving the environment as both physical and social adjustments can make a big difference. "When the environment is not quite right for someone living with dementia, it can make symptoms worse. A common symptom in people living with dementia are sight and perception problems. There may be nothing wrong with their eyes but how these signals are interpreted in the brain can go awry.

"A change in colour or contrast in a doorway threshold might look like a step, or a black mat on the floor might look like a hole, a door the same colour as the skirting and wall might become invisible. You can see how confusion and agitation may happen more often, especially if you need the loo but can’t find the way out of a room.

"Some of the difficulties faced by people living with dementia are not due to the damage to their brain but caused by difficulties in understanding and relating to their environment. In the same way, someone who has nothing to do may become withdrawn, this is not a symptom of the dementia but a result of what is happening around them and a lack of stimulation and purpose. Factors like the ones mentioned can be changed and this is really important to understand as it can help people with dementia to live well.

"This is why Swindon Dementia Action Alliance in association with the Alzheimer’s Society have set out to become an official dementia friendly community. Everyone, from governments and banks to the local hairdresser and next door neighbours, share part of the responsibility for ensuring that people with dementia feel understood, valued and able to contribute to their community.

"Part of this aim is to increase everyone’s awareness and understanding of the disease. Information sessions are available and free to attend so go online to to find a local session.

"The session only takes an hour and you could find out a bit more and what you can do to help make Swindon a dementia friendly place to live." For more information about services for people living with dementia in Swindon visit