Making society a more dementia inclusive environment requires several pillars of the community to work together – no one can do it by themselves.
What was great about the Listen, Learn and DO event on 20 May at Chester Town Hall was that there was no hierarchy, everyone mixed. There were people living with various forms of dementia, carers, NHS staff, council staff, volunteers and members of the general public. Everyone mixed and joined in together.
This created a unique atmosphere that, if replicated, shows just how special and welcoming the wider community can be. Paul Hitchmough’s performance of Let It Be, with the backing of our Countess Choir, was a poignant demonstration of this in action.
Chris Roberts, compere for the day, kicked off the presentations with the powerful message: “I’m still me. I’m still the same person I was before.”
The 55-year-old gent , who is living with mixed dementia and was featured by BBC’s Panorama last week, is an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society. I would urge anyone who has not seen it to try and view on catch up.
His wife Jayne also gave a talk, stressing relatives or carers must resist doing too much for people living with dementia. However tempting it might be to take over, she explained how vital it is for Chris to remain independent.
Striking this delicate balance can be tough at times.
Tommy Dunne, another speaker who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 58, described the loneliness he felt as his world got smaller as a result. First he lost the desire to go on holidays abroad, then felt he’d lost connection to his local community, work, friends and eventually family.
Gradually, with the right support around him, he managed to rebuild all these links and recently gave a presentation on dementia in Bucharest.
Thanks to Dementia Nurse Specialists Andy Tysoe, Sue Burton and the rest of their team great strides have already been made to increase awareness at the Countess, better equipping us to get this balance right.
Andy often talks about the need for cognitive ramps for people living with dementia in the same way there are physical ones for people in wheelchairs. Increasing awareness can build these metaphorical ramps to make life easier, but, like Jayne says, we shouldn’t push people up them unless they need us to.
The spirit of collaboration and partnership from Listen, Learn and DO is the key. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, we can all take steps to improve society for people with dementia.
:: The next #DementiaDO...thebasics session at the Countess is on Monday 13 June at 3.30pm in the Lecture Theatre. To book a place email: firstname.lastname@example.org.