Will you be a dementia friend?

Most people at some point will know someone in their family, Church or friends who has been diagnosed as suffering from dementia. It is a term which for some refers to a condition of old age, for others something connected to memory, for others it has a mystique about it tinged with fear of the unknown. Scroll down to watch a video about what it is like to have dementia.
 
The word dementia describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease or a series of strokes. It is not isolated to older people although it is more common with age. Dementia affects the individual and the way they understand and respond to their experiences, surroundings, family and friends.
 
Dementia Friends is an initiative of Public Health England and the Alzheimer’s Society. It is based on the concept that people with dementia don’t just lose their memories; they can also lose their friends. This is because people with dementia can start to behave differently. And sometimes friends and family might not understand or know how to react. However, it is possible to live well with dementia, especially with the support of friends and family. No matter how big, or how small, every action of support counts. That’s because people with dementia need friends more than ever. This is why Public Health England and the Alzheimer’s Society is seeking to create one million Dementia Friends, who will help people with dementia to live well for longer. Anybody can become a friend. It’s as simple as just understanding a bit more about dementia to help you support the people you know with dementia and their carers.
 
My first experience of dementia was linked to my family but it was only when I came to work in Mental Health I learnt about the symptoms and challenges experienced by people suffering from dementia and that at times intervention was necessary to help and support them. Yet it was only when I recognised the symptoms in my own Mother that “professional became personal” and for the next few years we as a family adjusted to the changes in her memory, capabilities and character. As described in a previous article on this website it was like gradually watching the lights go out over a period of time one by one in a house and each room shutting down as the light went out.
 
I have since seen this begin to happen again in another relative who is currently at the stage where she is increasingly dependant on others but for a person who is proud of their independence this is very difficult. She is only remaining independent with the help of supportive friends and family. Will you consider becoming a Dementia Friend?  And become one of the million!
 
Watch this video and sign up to be a Dementia Friend. See more at www.dementiafriends.org.uk.

Jonathan Clark, 08/06/2014