National Dementia Support Program and Dementia Friendly Communities

National Dementia Support Program

Dementia Australia delivers a number of services and supports across Australia through the National Dementia Support Program (NDSP), including: education, information, counselling, and early-intervention support.

The first point of contact for most people engaging with Dementia Australia’s NDSP-funded activities is the National Dementia Helpline (1800 100 500 or via a helpline webchat).

The National Dementia Helpline is staffed with experienced professionals who provide support to people with dementia and their friends and family; carers of people with dementia, or anyone with concerns about memory loss. The helpline provides education, counselling, early-intervention support and information about dementia and memory loss, risk reduction, government support services and emotional support to help manage the impact of dementia.

In 2019–20, there were 39,500 contacts to the National Dementia Helpline. This accounted for over half (53%) of all contacts to the NDSP. Other contacts were via email and online webchat.

In 2019–20, Dementia Australia surveyed NDSP-funded program participants following their engagement with these services. After participating in a NDSP program:

  • 85% of respondents reported an improvement in coping capacity among clients receiving counselling/support
  • 87% of respondents reported an improvement in coping capacity among clients receiving early intervention
  • 87% of respondents reported an improvement in coping capacity among clients receiving education (Dementia Australia 2021, pers. comm., 15 February).

Dementia-Friendly Communities

Another Australian Government-funded initiative undertaken by Dementia Australia is the Dementia-Friendly Communities program.

The aims of the Dementia-Friendly Communities program are to:

  • increase understanding and public awareness of dementia across Australia
  • increase training and opportunities for interested community members—to better foresee the signs and symptoms of dementia and effectively communicate with a person who has dementia
  • improve levels of engagement with people living with dementia across the community
  • enable communities to network and learn from other initiatives
  • provide the latest evidence and information on best practice approaches to increasing community awareness
  • better support people living with dementia.

See Box 11.1 for an example of a dementia-friendly community in Australia. 

Between 2016 and 2019, Dementia Australia established the National Dementia Friends Awareness Program and developed the National Dementia-Friendly Communities Resource Hub to achieve the program’s aims. The National Dementia Friends Awareness Program has now reached more than 20,000 people online and via face-to-face delivery formats in communities in every Australian state and territory. In addition, the program has engaged with 41 grant-funded projects through the Community Engagement Program (Dementia Australia 2021, pers. comm., 15 February). The resource hub also includes a list of businesses and organisations across Australia that are committed to supporting the needs for people with dementia to access their services. 

Box 11.1: Dementia-friendly Kiama 

A dementia-friendly community is a place where people living with dementia are supported to live a high quality of life with meaning, purpose and value (Dementia Australia 2021). This generally involves the formation of a dementia-friendly alliance in the community, and may also involve support from local businesses and organisations.

Located 120 kilometres out of Sydney, Kiama is a New South Wales township that was selected for a pilot project to create a dementia-friendly community. In 2015 the Kiama Dementia Action Plan was created by partners University of Wollongong, Dementia Australia (then Alzheimer’s Australia), the Kiama council and interested members of the community.

This pilot project aimed to increase community awareness and understanding of dementia in Kiama; provide new opportunities for social participation and involvement in the community for people with dementia including volunteering, participation in clubs and groups; support organisations to become dementia-friendly and train staff to better communicate with people who have dementia; and improve the physical environment in the community, including improved signage (Dementia Illawarra Shoalhaven 2020).

Kiama has since adopted these aims with the support of their Local Dementia Alliance, and Dementia Advisory Group.