Dementia, sadly, is a topic that tends to make many of us bury our heads in the sand, however, with an ageing population, it is a subject we can ill afford to ignore because one in three of us may develop one of the hundred or so diseases that cause dementia.
We, like those that have dementia, must learn to live with it, that is, if we want the stigma attached to go away.
It could happen to any of us, it will happen to one in three of us and if we would wish to be treated with understanding, dignity and respect and should we succumb to dementia, surely we have a duty to do the same for those who already have it.
As from April 1st it has been a requirement of NHS England that all GP Practices must have a Patient Participation Group. To achieve full recognition of the Group, it must commit to certain activities of their own choice.
Inspired by Jacquie Pond’s Dementia Friends Awareness Session, followed by a talk that she gave to the PPG in her role as representative of the Alzheimer’s Society, “Dementia” was the chosen subject for Newtons Practice’s Patient Participation Group’s first Workshop.
This proved the motivation for members of the group to train as Dementia Friends’ Champions who see their role as raising awareness among patients and staff by providing Dementia Friends’ sessions.
It is dignity, respect and understanding for those have dementia that is promoted by Dementia Friends, a voluntary action group, which was initiated by the Alzheimer’s Society. Anyone can become a Dementia Friend simply by attending a Dementia Friends Awareness Session.
The only cost involved is an hour of your time, your only commitment is to become more dementia friendly. So far, more than 1 million people have attended an awareness session and it is growing by the day.
Our own Town Council has made it their own commitment, to those in our community who have dementia, to follow the example of Crawley, the first Dementia Friendly Town in the area.
Last year saw the setting up of our first Forum hosted by the Town Council. This put in place the first building blocks of a Dementia Action Alliance who are working together with the common aim of making Haywards Heath an officially recognised Dementia Friendly community.
People, drawn from businesses, carers, patient participation groups, hospitals, social services, public bodies, as well as people living with dementia have come together to create a network of contacts where Dementia Friends’ Champions can promote what is required to make Haywards Heath proud to be classified as a Dementia Friendly Town.
Already companies big and small have committed themselves to making their staff dementia aware as have many smaller organisations. No-one is too old or too young to have this knowledge, with schools such as Warden Park Academy leading the way by making it part of their curriculum.
Six year olds can tell stories of the odd behaviour of Granny, Grandpa or Great Aunt and Dementia Friends Champions can provide the age appropriate awareness and the understanding that they will need to live in our ageing Society.
The Town Council, as part of the Dementia Action Alliance, in conjunction with Dementia Friends, will be hosting a second Forum at the Town Hall on April 27th. Once again they will be bringing together those organisations that can help make a big difference to lives of those with dementia, as well as their carers.
These are the people who can oil the wheels of change that will put Haywards Heath on the Dementia Friendly map. This will be followed by a Dementia Friends Awareness Day on May 21st, which takes place during national Dementia Awareness Week. The Town Hall and the Nuffield Hospital will be holding Dementia Friends awareness sessions throughout the day and other events will be going on in and around the town.
So why not become a Dementia Friend? It’s easy and enlightening and it takes only an hour to find out what Dementia really is, rather than the preconceptions and prejudices that many of us have.
The stigma has been removed from cancer, so now let’s help take the stigma away from dementia.
Report contributed by Helen de Hoop, part of the Dementia Action Alliance.