02 Aug 2021

Making housing and dementia a national priority: second update from the National Housing and Dementia Forum

Ashley Campbell of CIH Scotland and Lesley Palmer of DSDC, University of Stirling chaired the second evidence session of the National Housing and Dementia Forum - a forum organised by the Scottish Government in recognition of the impact that the current pandemic has had on people with dementia and their families (link for more information on the Forum). 

The evidence session was held in early July with a focus on access to advice and information on housing options and support for people living with dementia.

We heard that housing is a complex and personal issue and often the person with dementia will be living with another family member. Where there is disparity between the person living with dementia’s needs and what the family want, conflict can arise. Examples were heard whereby family members refused improvements which would have helped support the individuals’ needs if they thought that it would have a negative impact on their own quality of life.

The group acknowledged that there is a lot of very good information available in relation to supporting people with dementia at home and several well-designed design guides. Third sector charities and local authority social work departments were recognised as common sources of support, but the current guidance and advice is not always getting to the right people and there is nothing specifically focussed for the person with dementia to access. The methods in which we communicate housing information need to be tailored to suit the diversity of our population. Time, financial and legal complexities, and a lack of awareness were recognised as barriers to accessing information. Ownership can impact on awareness and funding/financing options with residents of housing association or local authority properties more likely to access support.

The question of when to discuss housing options with families was reflected upon and the timing for providing information and support acknowledged as a multifarious activity involving many disciplines. Housing advice provided as post-diagnostic support would seem logical but often families are dealing with the daily challenges of providing care and adapting to the diagnosis.  Thoughts of moving/adapting the home in the first year are far from the mind. Housing options vary as the individuals’ needs change and therefore housing considerations are an ongoing discussion. Planting the seed at post-diagnostic support stages may enable connections to be made later once the person/family are ready.

The condition of our existing housing stock was acknowledged as requiring improvement and it was recognised that national housebuilders have not yet taken on the mantle of building new homes which support ageing across the lifecourse. A national conversation on housing for dementia and ageing is needed and may encourage and empower us all to consider our future housing needs and plan for them. 

We are looking forward to the remaining two evidence sessions on ‘support for people living with dementia’ and ‘moving home in later life’. We will continue to keep you updated on our progress throughout the year.

Written by the National Housing and Dementia Forum co-chairs Ashley Campbell and Lesley Palmer.

Ashley is the policy and practice manager at CIH Scotland and Lesley is the chief architect at the University of Stirling’s Dementia Services Development Centre.