27th Feb 2017

Understanding dementia

The Shipston Forum is working with the many groups in Shipston which support people with dementia to try and improve awareness and understanding of this debilitating disease. We will be running a series of articles during the year to help ensure all those affected know where they can get help, starting with this piece by Dave Hollingworth.

The challenge we face

Despite the rapid increase in dementia, many people simply don’t understand it, demonstrated by the following short conversation overheard the other day:

“Funny thing, that dementia.”

“Alzheimers, Vascular, all means the same thing – they get dementia when they get old, don’t they - they go senile, mad, doolally…”

Actually, dementia is anything but “funny”. It’s an illness, just as cancer is an illness. 

Dementia is cruel. Essentially, your brain dies while your body keeps going. The famous author, Terry Pratchett, compared it to a very, very slow car crash, where you watch things failing and falling off, until eventually you go through the windscreen. He died from the disease in 2015, aged just 66.

The figures are stark. By 2025, one million people will have a diagnosis of dementia in the UK. This figure is expected to rise to 2 million by 2051. At the moment, one in fourteen of our population aged over 65 have dementia and there is no getting away from it.

It is not ‘they’ but, ‘we’ that get dementia - one in 14 of those aged over 65. We need to talk about it. We need to try and understand it, so we can help others in our community who have dementia, and just as importantly, help those loved ones who are caring for them. Caring is hard. We need to support both the carer and the person with dementia.

There is no stigma attached to dementia. It is an illness. Those with dementia haven’t gone mad, “they” are not doolally or senile. We need to treat it like any other illness, with compassion and support. 

Living well with dementia

While the prospect of a dementia diagnosis can seem very bleak, it is possible to live well with dementia. There is help available to make life easier both for those with the disease and their carers. This is particularly true in Shipston which is a Dementia Friendly Community (DFC). 

Following an initiative by Dr Sue Pritchard at the surgery, Shipston has been awarded DFC status. The committee have organized training for our local retail community, and 30 members of the town have had virtual reality training to experience what it is like to have dementia. 

Shipston is lucky to have several organisations that provide activities for people with dementia. Down Memory Lane, a singing group, Active Memory, a discussion group, the Alzheimer’s café, Stour Valley Carers, for those who are caring for someone with dementia, all these meet at least monthly and the dates, venues and times are published in the Forum. If you know anyone who might benefit, please tell them.

If you would like someone local to come and talk to your group or organization, please let Alyson Spence (07725892087) or Dave Hollingworth (07970125566) know, and it will be arranged!

To find out more about the groups running in Shipston, please contact:

Down Memory Lane: Dave Hollingworth - 07970 125566 or 01608 654444

Alzheimer’s café: Charmaine Bird - 02476 652602

Active Memory: Alyson Spence - 07725 892087 or 01608 661703

Stour Valley Carers Group: Lizzy Feather - 01608 686013/Carol Ruthven - 01608 662706

Useful links 

Warwickshire County Council has recently launched a brand new website - www.warwickshire.gov.uk/dementia -  which is designed for people with dementia, their carers, family and friends as well as practitioners supporting people with dementia and organisations who would like to know more about becoming dementia friendly. 

The Alzheimer’s society website (www.alzheimers.org.uk) is also a good resource. and to find out about becoming a Dementia Friend visit www.dementiafriends.org.uk.

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