How to make your business more dementia-friendly

8 min read

Diversity & Inclusion

How to make your business more dementia-friendly

Dementia is the UK’s biggest killer and is a challenge that all businesses can contribute to fighting. At Santander, we believe that life doesn’t end when dementia begins. Becoming a more dementia-friendly business means being able to help people remain independent and safe for as long as possible.

Over 850,000 people are living with dementia in the UK. Two thirds of those still live at home in their communities. It is our responsibility to enable them to live well and independently.

But this doesn’t have to be completely altruistic. There are business benefits too.

  • Competitive advantage: 83% of people with memory problems have turned to a business that is more accessible.
  • Reducing costs: the cost of working time lost to caring for people living with dementia is £3.2billion in England (CEBR, 2019). 
  • Future proofing: by making changes now, your organisation will meet the needs from customers and colleagues as dementia becomes more prevalent in the community.

Santander has been working in collaboration with Alzheimer’s Society, developing solutions to some of the most challenging issues those affected by dementia experience. We hope that your organisation will commit to making a positive difference to enable people affected by dementia to live well for longer too.

Supporting customers affected by dementia

People affected by dementia face a range of challenges. These may include memory loss or difficulty communicating, mobility or navigation issues and other associated problems. Every individual in every organisation can make a difference to the lives of people affected by dementia.

1. Dementia-friendly support

Becoming more dementia-friendly starts with improving understanding. People affected by dementia still experience stigma and often encounter people who don’t know how to support them.

The first step is to become Dementia Friends. Dementia Friends is an Alzheimer’s Society programme changing the way people think, act and talk about dementia. Register your organisation at https://www.dementiafriends.org.uk/register-partner-admin

Consider which colleagues would benefit from a deeper understanding of dementia through specialist training. 

As more of your colleagues understand more about dementia, more people affected by dementia in your communities will feel understood and supported.

2. Help people to access support 

It can be scary or difficult for someone affected by dementia to seek out help. Support your colleagues and customers affected by dementia to access the support they need by signposting to Alzheimer’s Society’s resources and support.

 

3. Dementia-friendly products, services and environments

People affected by dementia regularly face small barriers that make it difficult or impossible for them to live well. Businesses should bring dementia-friendly design into the creation of products, services and environments.

  • Accessible communications: ensure your written and digital communications are accessible and easy to understand.
  • Consider how adaptations to services can make them more dementia-friendly: for example, allow customers to access their account over the phone using voice recognition instead of having to remember a PIN. 
  • ‘Tell me once’ policy: creating a flagging system on customers’ accounts so that once they’ve disclosed their dementia to you they don’t have to do it again.

Environments can be overwhelming and inaccessible for people with dementia. This can prevent them going to that place, increasing their isolation and making it harder for them to live well. Review how your environments could be made more accessible. For example, ensure you have clear signage to aid navigation and avoid black welcome mats which can look like holes to someone with dementia. Find more suggestions at: alzheimers.org.uk/get-involved/dementia-friendly-communities/organisations/dementia-friendly-environment-checklist 

All products, services and environments should be designed with people affected by dementia in mind from the outset.

Remember, the challenges people with dementia face are so complex that often the solutions designed to meet the needs of people with dementia will help people with various other conditions. If you’re getting it right for people with dementia, you’re getting it right for everyone.

4. Include people affected by dementia

The best way to find out how to become more dementia friendly is to speak to people affected by dementia, find out what their challenges are and what solutions they would like to see. Including them in every stage of a project will allow you to access their invaluable experience and ensure products and services meet their needs.

What has Santander done? 

We have been building a more dementia-friendly culture to support staff and customers which has far-reaching impact. More than 50% of our colleagues became Dementia Friends in 2020 – that’s over 11700 people! We’ve also created a unique Dementia Ambassadors programme, with 129 Dementia Ambassadors receiving specialist dementia training to support customers and colleagues affected by dementia. This means the right support is available for people affected by dementia when they need it.

We have also introduced several supported banking products that benefit people affected by dementia. This includes:

  • Third Party Access account and Carers Card, providing safe, legal ways to support someone with their banking when they need support but not a full Power of Attorney
  • a Santander Dementia Guide, created in collaboration with Alzheimer’s Society, outlining support available: santandersustainability.co.uk/partnerships 
  • improving ATM journeys to be more dementia friendly, such as using more accessible language and colour choices.

We also created a dedicated Dementia Steering Group, comprised of people affected by dementia: employees, customers, and Alzheimer’s Society service users. Every aspect of Santander’s mission to become dementia friendly is led and informed by the group, ensuring the work truly benefits people affected by dementia. 

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