I set up Dementia Friendly East Lothian in 2013 to make life better for carers and people with dementia, like me and my family. I started talking to other carers and conversations spread. We got together to share ideas and people from services joined us and we began to create new collaborations and approaches – change happened. I book rooms, make scones, move chairs, write notes, speak out at meetings, write plans, whatever’s needed. An important part of what I do is capture and share our story, our shared purpose and make it work.
We’ve developed an infrastructure – Friendship Groups for people with dementia and carers, Annual Gatherings to share time together, have fun and get our voices heard and Collaborative work with communities, services, schools, care homes and decision makers. Our current priority is to work with communities, the H&SCP and other partners to set up Meeting Centres in East Lothian. These are social clubs in the community for people with dementia and carers that lived experience and research show work. A wonderful coming together of community energy, professional practice and skills, research and evidence led by people with dementia and carers with a shared purpose.
I’m also a community psychologist and activist. I ran our Community Council Emergency Resilience Team during The Beast from the East and Covid lockdowns over 2020. Food, safety, connection were the core of our shared purpose for all our community. Being immersed in a very clear and pressing shared purpose was inspiring and exhausting. We can do amazing things when we have a shared purpose and a sense of urgency.