The team at the Harrogate Advertiser series have been playing their part to make Harrogate district dementia friendly by taking part in the education programme on offer to all organisations. James Metcalf reports on the involvement and speaks to Harrogate hospital about their dementia-friendly initiatives.
The Harrogate Advertiser Series is the eleventh organisation to take part in an education scheme designed to spread awareness of dementia across the Harrogate district with the hope of helping those affected by the disease maintain their lifestyle for as long as possible.
At a launch event on Monday, September 22, the charity Dementia Forward, which is rolling out the initiative in the district, will be offering the free programme to all businesses and organisations.
Facts and figures help to put the disease in context: over the age of 80 one in five people have dementia, 25 per cent of babies born today will live to be 100, and nearly 50 per cent of people have been affected.
And the charity’s presentation and exercises promote an understanding of the disease to people who may know about or have experience of dementia but don’t have enough knowledge to know how to help.
For example, people in their 40s can develop dementia and there is an astonishing variety of more than 100 conditions that come under the umbrella of dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease which affects memory, but also other forms which affect spatial awareness and a person’s control over their inhibitions.
Frontal-temporal dementia can even be caused by an injury, and it is facts like these that break through much of the misunderstanding around the disease.
Dementia Forward CEO Jill Quinn said: “We look at what dementia is because that is what we want to get across - that it is a medical condition, that it is not just old people just being old, that it is not just confusion and memory loss.
“The youngest person we have on our books at the moment is 44, so the age group is one of our key messages - you don’t just get old and get dementia, it is a disease, but age is the highest risk factor.
“There are many types of dementia and we do have some types where the memory is reasonably intact, but other things are affected like spacial awareness.
“That is one of the parts about dementia that people don’t get, because they think it is all about memory loss.”
But it is the personal stories that drives home the point of the education programme, how it can really help, and why people should make the effort to become dementia-friendly.
In the space of an hour you can learn more about a disease affecting increasing numbers of people in an aging population, and any change you can make to your premises or practice through the pledge to the Dementia Action Alliance will affect not only the life of one person with dementia, but thousands of people including everyone affected by the disease - patients, carers, and families.
Knowing more about how memories are stored, not just in the short term but in the episodic memory, means society can talk to and support people living with dementia in their own community, at a cafe or restaurant or shop where they like to go and would feel better about continuing to visit.
Mrs Quinn said: “We store memories in really different way. It is the short term memory that will always go first but that doesn’t mean that all memory is gone.
“It is important not to give up, because your episodic memory is a lovely tool for people with dementia.
“Things that are important to us we package in a different way, so just because someone can’t remember what they had for breakfast all is not lost.
“It is difficult to get your head around, but once you can be bothered to enter their world you can have some really great conversation.”
And to learn what families do that works, what people recommend, and how dementia can affect a person individually means a better all-round knowledge of how to provide some essential support that is relatively easy to do.
“We tell families quite early to set up some good routines, so that when they can’t remember other things their routine is stored in the procedural memory and hopefully they will be able to do that for a long time,” Mrs Quinn said.
“If somebody didn’t know that, and the public aren’t normally trained to know, they are missing golden opportunities to make people’s lives easier.
“Gradually you get to have this problem with everyday life, and this is where dementia-friendly communities are very important.”
It is estimated that more than 50 per cent of people with dementia and their families and carers become isolated. The sad reality is that it is easier and safer for them to stay at home and not go out to places where people don’t understand.
This is where dementia-friendly communities come in, and the Harrogate Advertiser series will soon be making their pledge to the Dementia Action Alliance on how it can become more dementia-friendly
Do your bit and get in touch with Dementia Forward on 01765 645904 or email email@example.com
In the event of an emergency, call their helpline on 01765 601224.
Attend the launch event at Holiday Inn, Harrogate on September 22 from 6.30pm.
Harrogate hospital has several schemes in place, and is working on many others, to promote safety, understanding and communication on their wards for all patients living with dementia.
The most prominent is the butterfly scheme, which highlights the people who need more personalised care and works with them to provide the best support available.
Lead for dementia care at Harrogate hospital Louise Stevenson said: “The purpose of the scheme is to improve safety and wellbeing for patients and their carers and it is about teaching staff to offer positive and appropriate care to people with memory impairment.
“We use a carer’s sheet which is called all about me, and that lets us know personalised information about what helps reassure someone with memory impairment, so we can promote personalised care for that person.
“Keeping to routine really helps people who struggle with their memory, and this is really appreciated by patients and their carers.”
The hospital is also changing the environment of wards to make them more welcoming and providing memory boxes where people can put personal items allowing them to engage with staff.
Mrs Stevenson said: “What we are trying to do is reduce anxiety, so emotional treatment goes hand in hand with physical treatment. Wellbeing is just as important.”
The number of businesses taking up the education to become dementia-friendly is increasing, and one organisation going the extra mile is Nidderdale Llamas.
Two people working with the animals, including owner Susanne Benson, have taken up the education and have learned just how important the campaign really is to make the Harrogate district dementia-friendly.
Mrs Benson said: “It will give people more of a sense of community and they will know that people will understand their difficulties.
“It really opens more doors for them and that will help them feel more accepted, which is a huge benefit.
“It can take the pressure off carers as well because they will feel completely happy and relaxed going into a place where people are dementia-friendly and understand.”
The education also helped the team at Nidderdale Llamas understand how their business in particular is already making a difference.
For people with dementia, being around animals can both stimulate and relax them, and this can be crucial for maintaining a sense of normality.
Crucially, anything that helps people living with dementia stay part of their community and live their daily life for as long as possible is the aim of the Harrogate Advertiser series campaign.
Mrs Benson said: “It helps us understand the difficulties people face and that by coming to us and spending time with these wonderful creatures it helps them in their daily life.
“People with dementia have always really enjoyed being with the animals, so it has really helped us understand how much relaxation and sense of wellbeing it gives them.
“We thought it would be great to be recognised for the work we do here and the service we offer.”
Are you already feeling the benefits of a dementia-friendly community?
Tell us your stories. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01423 707526