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#DementiaDOing something about it

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Governor Caroline Stein blogs about attending one of Memory Nurse Specialist Andy Tysoe’s #DementiaDO…the basics sessions.

People of all ages can come across someone living with dementia, but do we know enough about it?

Andy Tysoe Quote

Well that made me think!

Changing society to become dementia inclusive may take years, but attending a #DementiaDO…the basics presentation is a great starting point for anyone – whether they work in the NHS or not.

What is #DementiaDO?

Memory Nurse Specialist Andy Tysoe delivers the #DementiaDO sessions with a powerful blend of infectious enthusiasm and knowledge.

They are designed to put you in the shoes of a person living with dementia, boosting your understanding of what the person and those around them go through.

It took Andy less than a few minutes to convince me to attend – such was his passion for dementia care. I’m not surprised at all that his reach has extended as high as getting NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens to go to one.

What is dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term – or parasol as Andy prefers – that describes wide-ranging symptoms that include problems with memory, planning or organising, language, mood or behaviour and perception of objects.

There are many different types of dementia, with the most common being Alzheimer’s disease and then vascular dementia. Around one in three people over the age of 65 are living with the disease, but it does also affect younger people too.

Andy’s goal is to help make daily life better for people with dementia and their loved ones. I now share his ambition after having my eyes opened to the issue.

Waking up to everyday prejudice

Imagine queuing up at the till for your weekly food shopping: a man in front of you is taking a long time to pay and appears to be confused. How do you react? Do you tut? Sigh? Look at your watch?

We see these momentary releases of frustration all the time, but if there is a deeper meaning behind someone struggling with a simple task they often only make things worse.

Penny drops

Andy uses a penny test to really drill that home.

Everyone in attendance gets a piece of paper and is asked to draw a penny from memory. It’s amazing how difficult it proves to be. The room is a sea of vexed faces, with copious head scratching and furious scribbling out.

Andy says: “Come on, get a move on. It’s only a penny. You see them all the time. What’s so hard?”

Dementia Friends

The session is endorsed by Dementia Friends, an Alzheimer’s Society initiative, and NHS England. It satisfies the outcome requirements of NHS Tier1 dementia awareness, which is mandatory for everyone working in the NHS, irrespective of their role, but is also open to other organisations, the general public and people either with or caring for someone with dementia as well.

By attending a #DementiaDO…the basics session you automatically become a ‘Dementia Friend’, with a badge to prove it. At present there are around 1.5 million Dementia Friends nationally and it is hoped this will increase to 4 million by 2020.

Ramping up for success

You get the feeling that each session, and every new Dementia Friend, is a piece fitting into a much wider jigsaw.

Andy talks about building ‘cognitive ramps’ for people living with dementia, drawing parallels between the contrasting perceptions of physical and cognitive disabilities. He wants it to be as commonplace as it is to see ramps for wheelchair users.

“We assist people with physical disabilities getting into our shops, services and buildings by providing physical ramps so we need to start to think about how we include people with ‘cognitive’ or thinking disabilities too and how we can help those living with this progressive brain disease,” he said.

Andy describes the foundations of a cognitive ramp as building in more time and understanding for the person as well physical changes to the environment and other reasonable adjustments, such as pictorial menus in hospitals.

It is a unique opportunity to attend a course like this, which is free to all and open to absolutely everybody. Hopefully, in time, society will reflect that idea.

Future #DementiaDO…the basics sessions at The Countess:

May 16
June 13
July 11
August 15
September 12
October 10
November 14

About the Author

Caroline Stein

Governor at the Countess of Chester Hospital

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