The Netherlands: people with dementia belong with us

Creating dementia-awareness, preventing stigma and treating people with dementia as worthy members of society is one of the core parts of dementia policy in The Netherlands. The Ministry of Health, Welfare & Sport started a national programme on dementia friendliness in May 2016, in close collaboration with Alzheimer Nederland and PGGM, a private enterprise.

The programme proved a success. Aiming at 300,000 dementia friends by the end of 2020, this goal was reached almost a year earlier. In July 2020 the counter reached 350,000 friends. Apart from the general public, the programme aims at professionals as well. In co-operation with several professionals groups, twelve training were developed, which can be taken both on-line and on-site. By now, 175 trainers are available for on-site training of professionals, e.g. shopkeepers, bus and taxi drivers, dentists, hairdressers, police etc.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the focus of the programme shifted to a more local level. The general public was invited to send a postcard to a person with dementia, living in the neighbourhood. A postcard, not just to say hello, but also to offer help or assistance by asking the questing “Can I help you with…..”

In order to maintain a steady intake of dementia friends and professionals the programme will continue under the National Dementia Strategy 2021-2030. In this strategy, the Dutch Government also plans an additional approach to enable people with dementia to participate in society. Whereas the dementia friendly programme compensates for disabilities in people with dementia, Dementia Friendly 2.0 will facilitate people with dementia to use their abilities. Instead of traditional day care, people with dementia will have the opportunity to do volunteer work, fitting with their interests and abilities. Research shows that doing volunteer work, combined with visits to dementia meeting centres, increases the quality life, decreases care giver burden and delays nursing home admittance.