Award-winning law firm, Gardner Leader, has transformed its offices in Newbury to become dementia friendly and has trained more than 30 staff across its offices in Berkshire and London, to be Dementia Friends champions in support of the Alzheimer’s Society.
The law firm is one of only two solicitors in the county to be officially recognised for its work towards being dementia-friendly by the West Berkshire Dementia Action Alliance – an organisation dedicated to improving the lives of local people living with the disorder, joining 39 other member businesses.
There are currently over 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, with this number projected to reach 1.6 million by 2040.
As part of working towards dementia-friendly status, Gardner Leader carried out an environment audit to identify ways to make its Newbury office a better environment for those with dementia.
Timed with an expansion of its Newbury premises in White Hart House, changes include colourful artwork in the meeting rooms, new toilet signage and seating, door mats in dementia-friendly colours, and new reception, entrance and exit signage to help those with dementia find their way around the office unaided.
Over 30 members of staff are also qualified Dementia Friends champions, an Alzheimer’s Society initiative, to support those living with dementia and to inspire others to make a positive difference in the community.
Derek Rodgers, managing partner at Gardner Leader said: “It’s inspiring to see so many of our staff wanting to make such a positive difference to people living with dementia by training to become Dementia Friends champions, and so we took the opportunity to make our offices in Newbury more dementia-friendly when we expanded and refurbished last year. Gardner Leader has been present in the local community for over 120 years and, as the number of those living with dementia continues to grow, it is important for us to ensure our offices remain a safe and welcoming space for everyone.”
Victoria Rowland of Age UK Berkshire, who delivered the training session, said: “Gardner Leader has taken another fantastic step to support people living with dementia by offering all of their staff Dementia Friends sessions. Dementia Friends is a social action movement led by The Alzheimer’s Society that aims to reduce the fear and stigma of living with dementia and allow people to feel supported and understood in their communities. Staff at Gardner Leader have become Dementia Friends by attending an online information session and learning a little more about what it is like to live with dementia and think about practical ways in which they can help.”
Gardner Leader has provided professional advice for the West Berkshire Dementia Action Alliance website around legal matters that may affect people living with dementia, such as lasting powers of attorney.
Staff have also contributed to projects to help raise awareness of the support group. In December, six colleagues pulled together to create personalised knitted Christmas gifts for residents experiencing dementia in local Berkshire care homes.
The team of six knitters created a range of gifts including bed or slipper socks, scented Christmas decorations, personalised handkerchiefs and fidget blankets to keep isolated care home residents connected to the community during lockdown.