People with dementia can live well and there is more to them than dementia
Opened in 2016, Abbey House caters for people living with dementia. Learning & development officer and Dementia Champion, Kinga, and the rest of her dedicated team regularly organise events to raise awareness of dementia and allow the community to understand the key messages behind dementia care and living with dementia.
“I’ve been working with people living with dementia for 17 years now, my dissertation was about dementia and I have provided lots of different training on the subject. I started providing Dementia Friends sessions in 2014. When I joined the Abbey House team, I organised a few sessions for the team and still do. These team sessions are arranged at different times of the day, so it fits around the shift pattern. Dementia Friends is short, practical and informative: enough to spread awareness and give a taste for more.
The session organised for World Alzheimer’s Day (21st September) was special. From observations, it was clear than the need for it was there. We have had a few incidents where residents’ challenging behaviour occurred outside and as we are situated in the middle of a new development site surrounded by houses, neighbours would witness these incidents. I think it is important to stay open for the community. Instead of isolating the residents, we should spread awareness about their condition and possible actions.
During the sessions, we discuss five key messages about dementia: understanding the condition is key. We have activities like bingo (related to the topic) and some questions and answers. At the end of the session, participants are asked to come up with the action that will show their understanding; that could include talking to others about dementia and encouraging to sign up for the similar session, or updating their status on social media stating they have become a dementia friend. No action is too small.
Before the Dementia Friend event on the 21st September, I visited most of the local business owners to personally invite them to the session. I also pushed invitations through the letters boxes of our neighbours’ houses. Our neighbours’ are mostly young families, they might not have heard of dementia yet or think that as it hasn’t affected them yet, so there is no need for them to learn about it. We want these individuals to have the chance to understand and accept the condition as they could come across a person with dementia anywhere – from going shopping to using public places.
The turnout was not a big number but overall, the session went well. We had tears and lots of amazing comments. Relatives of people diagnosed often have an eye opening experience: they suddenly realise that whatever behaviour their loved one conveys is natural or typical and common for other patients. Two sisters attending asked for more sessions open to the public, as they would like their father to attend and understand their mum’s behaviour more.
I love observing the change in those who, very often, come feeling helpless, embarrassed and reluctant, thinking ‘it’s not going to change anything; I’m not really sure why I’m here’. At the end of the session, they are relieved and so grateful for all the tips and new knowledge they gained. What’s more important, they realised that it’s not as hopeless as they thought. People with dementia can live well and there is more to them than dementia. Those downhearted relatives learn that despite the degenerative and final nature of the condition, there’s plenty they can do to improve their own life and that of the diagnosed person.”
For more information about Dementia Friends, an Alzheimer’s Society initiative, visit: https://www.dementiafriends.org.uk/