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Be Dementia Friendly In Aotearoa New Zealand This Christmas

Christmas and kindness always go hand in hand. This holiday season is the perfect time to remember this as we work together to make Aotearaoa New Zealand a Dementia Friendly place.

Through Alzheimers NZ’s Dementia Friendly initiatives, a growing number of Kiwis are helping to make their communities kinder, more supportive, more inclusive and understanding places for people living with dementia mate wareware.

Libraries are at the heart of our communities. They offer a place of safety and support where everyone can feel valued, appreciated, and empowered with knowledge and understanding. This is why we are so excited to have four more libraries across the motu joined our Dementia Friendly Recognition Programme in 2023.

One library that knows the value of being Dementia Friendly well is Picton Library which, along with Marlborough District Library were first recognised as Working To Be Dementia Friendly in 2021.

Librarian and Dementia Friendly champion Lis Marrow says being Dementia Friendly is important to Picton Library as it reflects their community and needs.

“New Zealand is seeing a steady growth in people with a diagnosis of dementia and as a library we must be able to assist and advise where we can,” she says.

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“We’re proud of our status and it has encouraged new members to reach out as well as continue to strengthen our relationship and bonds with the Alzheimers Marlborough and the Marlborough Wither Road group.”

As we come together over the holiday season, Lis has an important message she’s sharing with her community: remember to reach out to family who we may not see daily and those living with dementia mate wareware. Lis is reassuring people that their loved one who has dementia mate wareware is still there – just different.

“Dementia mate wareware is a family condition – and when we know one person with this we know one person with this. Try and remember them as they were and as they are now – experience the joys if you can and seek advice from your local branch of Alzheimers if you need to.”

Further north, Napier Library started their Dementia Friendly journey in October. As part of this, they’re starting a special collection of fiction, non-fiction, picture books, and various games – including Dovetail Press publications.

Innovation and Engagement Lead and Dementia Friendly champion Keelie Nye says being Dementia Friendly means ensuring all patrons feel welcome, valued and seen for who they are.

“We’re lucky enough to be in the planning stages of a new library in Napier and so this is the ideal time to ensure this new space is welcoming, accessible and inclusive to all our local community.”

“We’ve recently started the process of re-doing our in-library signage and since having learned more about both being Dementia Friendly and barrier free access we have re-designed our signage with this in mind,” she says.

“We’re starting a training process in the New Year to get all our library staff through the Alzheimers NZ Dementia Friends course so we can increase awareness across all our teams.”

Like those working at Napier Library, anyone around Aotearoa New Zealand can join the cause this Christmas, by becoming a Dementia Friend with Alzheimer NZ’s quick online module.

The module takes about 20 minutes and helps people learn more about dementia mate wareware and simple ways to help.

Alzheimers NZ Dementia Friendly Advisor Dr Meg Spriggs says it is the perfect time of year to get involved.

“This time of year can be espeically tough for people and their whānau living with dementia mate wareware, so everything we do – from popping in for a cuppa or offering to help someone in the supermarket – can go a long way,” she says.

“Working with Dementia Friendly champions like Liz Marrow (Picton) Jane Robinson (Marlborough), Keelie Nye (Napier), and many others is a highlight of my job! It is their passion and mahi that makes our communities safer, and more inclusive places for people living with dementia mate wareware.

“The values of being Dementia Friendly are being kind, supportive and inclusive which is what the Christmas spririt is all about!”

Organisations interested in Dementia Friendly can contact Meg on dementiafriendlynz@alzheimers.org.nz.

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