Councillors, police officials and residents gathered at a meeting this week to take the first steps towards making Henfield a more dementia friendly place to live.
Organised by charity, Know Dementia, the gathering held at Henfield Hall on Tuesday (February 26), asked people what they can do to make the village inclusive to those suffering with the disease.
This comes after David Cameron launched an appeal last year to encourage communities to prepare for a tsunami of people being diagnosed.
Run by couple Alex and Jennie Morrison-Cowan, the charity that hosts events and drop-in clinics for sufferers and their carers, wants rural areas to help build understanding and give support where necessary.
“We want to bring people together in order to say how can we make four parishes be more dementia friendly,” explained Jennie.
“That means if you go into a bank or a shop people know how to deal with you properly.”
Parishes in attendence included West Grinstead, Cowfold, Shermanbury and Henfield.
Steve Bailey of Henfield Hub and Partnership said: “We’re hoping to get a lot more businesses and parishes involved here today.
“We want to know how we can help sufferers and their carers cope with it.”
Deputy leader of the county council Lionel Barnard believes it is important to look forward and find funds.
He said: “I think that it is important to support this question of dementia now that we’re responsible for health in West Sussex.
“We need to look forward to developing new ideas and sourcing funds.
“There are so many people over 60 in West Sussex.
“It’s got our full support.”
The main points addressed during the meeting looked into the physical environment, local facilities, support services, social networks and local groups.
Know Dementia hosts an afternoon jazz choir once a fortnight where people in the community including those with dementia can get together, make new friends and build a network of support.
Jennie continued: “We want local groups to encourage people to be part of them and not excluded, and to look at ways as a community that all the different people, social care, businesses and families can come up with some views about how we can improve things.
“Already today we’ve come up with some major points.”
Urging people at the meeting to commit to the initiative, and sign a form, the charity will build a report to identify the key points made.
Leader of West Sussex County Council Louise Goldsmith has also shown her support.
Jennie said one of the big problems with understanding the disease is that many people are not diagnosed early enough.
It is estimated that there are approximately 800,000 people suffering with dementia, 14,000 of which reside in West Sussex, and it is believed 8,500 of these in the county have not yet been diagnosed.