Dementia champions step forward

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The first of two dementia awareness meetings was held on Friday January 16 in St Mary’s Hall, Rye. Daliea Redman, a trained dementia champion, challenged her audience to say what they knew about this condition. It transpired that most of us had some relation or friend in need of caring. We learnt that one in three of the population at some stage encounters this progressive disease that can be a cause of death.

Some 800,000 people across Britain have dementia in its various forms, 2,200 of them in Rother. Alzheimer’s is perhaps the most common and most feared. Redman’s message though, and that of the national dementia strategy currently being rolled out, calls for a positive response based on increasing public awareness and more knowledgeable concern. In this campaign the key concept is expressed as “living well with dementia” – with the accent on living with, rather than suffering from.

We discussed some common symptoms beyond that of short-term memory loss, such as lowered co-ordination in movement and visual impairment. One example given was the effect a patterned carpet or shiny floor surface might produce on the brain, causing lack of confidence and disorientation. Ways were identified in which a companion or carer could help greatly with a little basic training. “Everybody’s dementia journey will be different and turning understanding into action will require love and informed concern,” said Redman.  “The most important thing is to maintain a person’s autonomy for as long as possible”.

The next meeting on Thursday January 22 will set forward plans for developing a dementia action alliance in Rye, with a steering group of volunteers seeking to enlist co-operation from retailers, chemists, solicitors, and other interactive points of contact. This local campaign aims to improve public consideration and respect for people with dementia, as for example is already happening for those with problems of mobility and sight impairment. The project is being supported by donations from the Rother Voluntary Action group and St Mary’s parochial church council.

* For information on how to become a “dementia champion”, visit the Alzheimer’s Society website