New report on sign language and dementia

May 16, 2022

The British Deaf Association is marking Dementia Action Week 2022 with a campaign to raise awareness of the unique social, cultural and linguistic needs of Deaf British Sign Language signers living with dementia.

The campaign will highlight two key pieces of work led by the BDA Scotland, the Deaf Dementia Research Project and the Transforming the Deaf Dementia Experience Project.

In March 2022, the BDA published the findings of the Deaf Dementia Research Project, funded by the Life Changes Trust and led by BDA Scotland in partnership with SORD (Social Research with Deaf people) at the University of Manchester. The project aimed to find out how to improve care homes for deaf people with dementia.

The report, Deaf people with dementia and care homes in Scotland, found that care home providers and staff often did not understand the unique social, cultural and linguistic needs of Deaf people with dementia whose first language is British Sign Language (BSL).

Some of the report’s recommendations included:

  • Creating guidelines for best care for Deaf people with dementia in care homes.
  • Employing Deaf BSL staff.
  • Training more Deaf BSL cultural advocates and befrienders.
  • Improving BSL and Deaf Awareness training for care home providers.
  • Enhancing inspection to include specific cultural elements relating to deaf people and providing information about care home options in an accessible BSL format.

The Transforming the Deaf Dementia Experience Project is a community interest initiative that supports Deaf people living with dementia and their carers. The project aims to promote a better understanding of dementia by developing accessible resources, information, and toolkits in British Sign Language (BSL).

The dedicated BDA dementia website includes a Dementia Toolkit and a series of nine dementia videos developed with the University of Stirling on how to make your home more dementia-friendly for Deaf people.

Avril Hepner, BDA Scotland Manager, said, ‘Dementia presents unique challenges for the deaf community in the UK. Often, a deaf person living with dementia is the only BSL signer in the care home where they live, meaning they are not able to communicate with staff or other residents. This can have a detrimental effort on their mental health and wellbeing, not to mention the practical implications of not being able to communicate with those caring for them.’

Visit the British Deaf Association website to find out more information.

In other news, The Department of Health and Social Care and the Chief Social Worker for Adults has published their annual report. It highlights key achievements of the past year and sets out objectives for the sector as it looks ahead to 2022/23.


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