I recently met with Nicola Zimmermann, who manages the Sutton office of the Alzheimer’s Society, to discuss changes happening in Sutton.

When Nicola took on the role 18 months ago, she tells me that they were not using their full potential and all the groups were only reaching about 60 of the approximately 2000 people in Sutton living with dementia. However, the Dementia Adviser and Support Services have supported 440 people affected by dementia with an extra 570 coming through the doors this next year These are commissioned by Sutton Council to provide dementia services and by the Sutton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in relation to health provision.

The Sutton Alzheimer’s Society, while providing social events such as ‘Memory Lane’ café, is trying to get back to the core aim of the charity, which is to provide information, talk frankly about dementia and remove the stigma attached to this condition.

Amongst the changes are to take the cafés to other parts of Sutton, such as Belmont, Worcester Park, Sutton and Wallington, to provide peer support and carer support groups and working with GPs to get in touch with people as soon as they are diagnosed.

One of the biggest changes we discussed was Nicola’s attempts to learn from Dementia Friendly Communities and change social attitudes towards dementia. This means changing the conversation to not ‘suffering’ with dementia, but ‘living well’ with dementia. Part of this process is to engage people living with the dementia with the community through the many social groups already run by others such as singing groups and other activities.

Working with the Dementia Action Alliance, this has involved the Sutton Alzheimer’s Society working with local organisations to encourage their members to attend social events, like friendship groups, within the community rather than run by the Alzheimer’s Society itself, which could broaden their social life and reduce social isolation.

As well as helping with integration, it also helps deal with funding concerns as Sutton Alzheimer’s Society can use their expertise in more appropriate settings and community groups can open up their doors to the needs people with dementia have in the social community.

I found the meeting incredibly useful and I look forward to working with Nicola and the Sutton Alzheimer’s Society in the future.