“Whatever Happens Marty, Don’t Go to 2020!”
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At a glance

As 2020 comes to a close, we look back on 12 months of progress for the DCAN network during a very difficult and unpredictable year.

2020 has been quite a year. Yet in our own way we have achieved a great deal.  Here are some of the highlights from our year working to personalise dementia, together. 



January- This was to be our big launch. One room, 119 people, the 6 components of UPC, hundreds of post-its and a world put to rights. What could possibly stop us? Well a global pandemic for one!

Only it didn’t stop us. It made our work more urgent, our response more innovative, and our determination more resolute. But all that would come later.



February- Still going boldly into the future mapped out at the January event, we settled on our new brand, developed our work plan through to 2021 and created a scheme to support local areas making great strides in rolling out universal personalised care for people with dementia. Things were looking good but within a few short weeks the world had turned upside down and new priorities dominated everything. Only our new logo and brand survived unchanged.

Covid-19: The First Wave- like everybody else our personal and professional lives where left reeling. Colleagues were lost to Furlough and to other parts of the NHS, but the work continued.

NHS England & Improvement, Alzheimer’s Society and Coalition for Personalised Care made the bold decision to support the DCAN network to continue operating- seeing personalised care as being crucial to helping people with dementia through the immediate crisis and later stages of the pandemic response. We owe a lot to our Executive Sponsors for their firm support of our work at a very uncertain time- thanks Kate Lee, James Sanderson  and Alistair Burns. If we had some virtual flowers, now is the moment we would give them to you!

Distancing With Dementia- Our planned new website was re-purposed within days into www.distancingwithdementia.org.uk. (thank you Adam!)

This is a pop up website for sharing tips of things to do for anyone distancing at home with dementia. Ideas grew rapidly and friends across the network contributed blogs written directly to and by people with dementia and their families.  The site met a real need and it continues to receive visits not just in the UK but from people around the world too.  It felt good to be able to contribute something positive, helpful and constructive so quickly but we knew much more would be needed in the weeks, months, maybe years ahead.




The Summer Months- This was our first chance to really take stock of everything and start to be more strategic in our planning for what was needed next.   We were still about creating a space to bring the worlds of personalisation and dementia together.  But what did this even mean in the context of the Covid19 pandemic? How much of what we had excitedly planned back in January still held true in June?

As ever the best way of answering questions to which there are no simple answers, was to talk.

Our “What Matters Now?”  series of Zoom events did this by looking at the impact of Covid 19 on daily life for people with dementia and on care and support.  For the first time we ran joint events with partners, including Music For Dementia, Playlist for Life, Arts 4 Dementia, TIDE Carers and Dementia Carers Count.

The connection between the Personalised Care Group within NHS England and Improvement and NHS England’s Older People’s Mental  Health and Dementia Team has grown really strong too. As we lost some members of our delivery team as Covid took their roles in new directions, it was great to work more closely with Claire Fry and more recently Vicky Cartwright on such things as the Dementia Wellbeing in the Covid-19 Pandemic Guide and the revised Dementia: Good Personalised Care and Support Planning Guide

The link we now have to the Dementia Clinical Networks has been really valuable to us this year and will be invaluable to us in 2021 too.

Life moved online and we found Zoom worked differently but really effectively for us. We believe it will remain a core part of how we operate even when large gatherings can safely resume.


Nov-Dec- As 2020 entered its final few months, it was time to consolidate everything that had gone before and make decisions about how we wanted to work as a network.

November was exciting for us as it saw the successful launch of our website www.dcan.org.uk. We now had a home, a place for us to share news, publicise events, publish blogs and house resources. Not just for us but for individuals and organisations to post their work and ideas too.  The response has been incredibly positive and the value the website brings will continue to grow and grow in the weeks and months ahead. Our twitter account @DementiaCan has also become a key way for us to connect the network.



We end the year with 350 people signed up to DCAN, covering those with lived experience of dementia, health, social care, voluntary, community and social enterprise sector as well as academic researchers. Exactly the mix we were hoping for when we first began to come up with the idea of DCAN.

The work itself really took shape too, with the launch of four DCAN Enquiries- What Matters Now?; Dementia Reframed; Social Prescribing 360; and our exploration of ways  personalised care can make a difference to peoples experience of dementia from diagnosis to end of life, Right at the Start.

November saw DCAN linking up with the Social Care Future movement and run workshops at their Festival alongside Philly Hare of Innovations in Dementia, Dr Wendy Mitchell, Keith Oliver and Chris Maddocks. Excited to support their Social Care Future Inquirers too putting people who use social care at the centre of the discussions about it’s long term reform.

An event was also run with Ella Robinson and Kielan Arblaster from Alzheimer’s Society Policy team sharing findings of their work on Dementia Pathways and starting off a programme of work to look at ways personalised care can help.

2021 and beyond?  So what’s next for DCan? Well, we are a learning network, and one of the lessons learned in 2020 is never to predict the future!

(At least not until our first New Year Blog post in January at any rate!).


Thank you to everybody who has worked with us or supported us this year. It’s been tough and bleak for many this year, but not without its own light too. We really appreciate the time, the interest and the commitment all of you have given to DCAN this year.

Over the Christmas period, we’ll be taking time to reflect and re-focus but do keep an eye over on www.distancingwithdementia.org.uk . We’ll be updating this throughout, with more tips and ideas for activities and things to do at home. .

Take care,

DCAN Delivery Team

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