Patricia Roberts is a Wellbeing and Housing Support Team Leader at Aspire Housing.

Dementia can affect anyone at any age.

It is set to be the 21st century’s biggest killer and is already the leading cause of death in women living in the UK, with one person developing the brain disease every three minutes.

As a generation that will be working for longer, businesses need to have an understanding and knowledge about the condition, as its future workforce could be living and working with dementia.

This awareness needs to be in place across all sectors, but none more so than in housing associations.

With previous research from a leading dementia charity finding that 85 per cent of people want to stay living at home for as long as possible after diagnosis, the dementia-friendly housing charter was launched to help housing professionals better understand the condition so their services can improve and maintain the wellbeing of people affected.

There are 6,000 people with dementia in North Staffordshire?—?4,000 of which reside in Newcastle-under-Lyme, where the majority of our work at Aspire takes place, and it is one of the biggest challenges the housing sector faces.

The Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme is an initiative designed to change people’s perceptions of dementia. By holding Information Sessions, the programme aims to transform the way the nation thinks, acts and talks about the condition.

I first encountered someone living with dementia while out in the field in a former job, and after David Cameron’s nationwide challenge on raising awareness of the disease, I signed up to the Alzheimer’s Society’s programme, becoming a Dementia Friends Champion in 2014.

I have now brought the message to Aspire as housing is on the front line and needs to have that knowledge, as being dementia aware can help those living with the condition remain in their homes for longer.

“There are 6,000 people with dementia in North Staffordshire?—?4,000 of which reside in Newcastle-under-Lyme, where the majority of our work at Aspire takes place.”

We have 100 Dementia Friends within the company and are set to double that figure during this year’s Dementia Awareness Week. We’re asking all staff to take part in Information Sessions so that Aspire becomes a Dementia Friendly business.

We also want to extend this awareness to the communities we work with, so customers have the opportunity to become Dementia Friends to prevent those living with the condition from becoming isolated by providing a neighbourhood network of support.

A basic understanding of dementia can make a big difference?—?it is a helping hand in learning how to spot the signs and how to be approachable and helpful, so we as a housing society, are better equipped to appreciate and assist with the difficulties the people we visit have to deal with on a daily basis.

Without that understanding, people only look at what is presented to them when working with somebody living with dementia. However, behind that is someone who has had a job, a life and a family?—?it is important we don’t forget the person first.

Each person’s journey with dementia is different, but it is possible to live with the condition and it’s through events like Dementia Awareness Week where we can get that message out there and spread the word.

There will be more than one million people with the disease by 2025, so the sooner we all have an understanding of the condition, the better.

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