"Dementia is a syndrome that affects memory, thinking and behaviour and though it mainly affects older people it is not a normal part of ageing. It is one of the major causes of disability and dependency worldwide. In Scotland we are privileged with a better health and social care system than some countries, but dementia still presents serious problems in all our communities here.   

"The commonest form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, but there are many others, and each has physical and psychological impact on the person affected. The social and economic impacts affect everyone in their family and others around them. In the early stages it is often overlooked, but over time, as it progresses the person has near total dependence on others. There is not much available in terms of drugs or treatments, but getting diagnosed early helps people to stay as well as possible for as long as possible.  

READ MORE: Camera club challenges dementia stereotypes and boosts confidence

"A public health approach is recommended by the World Health Organisation. This means that there are things we should do because there is evidence that some of the risk factors for dementia can be modified. So we have hope, but there a lots of things we have to do. 

"Dementia has been in the news a lot in recent years. As a result, people are more aware. More people are checking with the GP if they are worried. But people are still afraid and not sure what to do about it when it happens in their own family. Three new projects funded last year by the Dementia Services Development Trust are already making a difference, and the Trust is ready to fund more in 2020. 

"The Dementia Services Development Trust has been around for over thirty years in Scotland. Their aim is to improve the lives of people affected by dementia, and that includes families.  Their fundraising and support in the past created the Dementia Centre at the University of Stirling, which was the first of its kind in the world, and it has been a model for development of dementia teaching and research in many countries. 

"Now the Trustees, who are all volunteers, have turned their attention to a new way of thinking about dementia. Having listened to people with dementia and their families, and looked at research, their aim now is to disrupt the usual ideas about dementia. That is why they launched the Dementia Disruption Awards last year. Three of the five awards went to projects in Scotland though they are open to anyone. 

"The successful Scottish projects are designed to help people with their families get out and about and learn new things. The World Health Organisation guidelines emphasise the importance of physical activity, and managing conditions like hypertension and diabetes. Mental activity is also vital. Each of the projects works in a practical and positive way on one of these priorities. 

"The transport project is based on the question of how to help people to travel if they have difficulty in working things out. People with dementia may have given up driving. Those people must learn, perhaps for the first time, to rely on public transport.  It focuses on new ways to let transport companies and their staff understand how unhelpful they sometimes are, without meaning it. If you are going to keep physically active, it’s vital not to be trapped in the house. You need confidence to get out and about by bus, train and ferry. 

READ MORE: Comic book aims to help people with dementia use transport without fear

"Bearing in mind how important it is to get fresh air and take exercise, the paths project has created a dementia walking area in an agricultural college. Why there? Well, so that people can visit and walk. But also so that people who are designing parks and open spaces can see what would make a public space easier for people affected by dementia to negotiate on foot, by themselves or in company. This project demonstrates to any local authority or organisation how to make their public spaces dementia-friendly. 

"Finally a documentary photographer and a composer worked with people who have dementia, introducing them to photography, to make images and curate an exhibition with a soundtrack. The time and patience needed to listen and support, and the skill of letting the person with dementia take the lead comes not from “dementia training” but from a natural respect and a capacity to follow the lead of the person affected by dementia. 

READ MORE: National charity develops dementia-friendly training to keep everyone walking

"Each of these project heavily involved or were led by people who initially knew very little about dementia, and the people with dementia themselves. They weren’t based on “improving services” or “educating staff” which were once the sole focus of the Dementia Services Development Trust. These aims are still fundamentally important, but the Trust itself is breaking with its own tradition, and encouraging people to think differently."

Professor June Andrews is a professor of dementia studies and advisor to the Dementia Services Development Trust.