What you can do to be a dementia friend

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  • News pledge is to double the number of dementia friends in the area
  • Session can be done online or face-to-face
  • Director of public health in Portsmouth is urging people to back the cause
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In just a 45-minute session I came away knowing and understanding more about the life-changing disease that is dementia.

I attended a dementia friends workshop run by the Alzheimer’s Society.

The scary thing is dementia can effect anyone

Dementia champion Julie Jones

There were about 15 people in my group and together we went on a myth-busting, fact-learning journey, to have some understanding of what it might be like to have dementia.

The first thing you’re told about is the five main points that the sessions aim to teach people:

n Dementia is not a natural part of aging.

n It is caused by diseases of the brain.

n It’s not just about memory loss.

n It’s possible to live well with dementia.

n There is more to the person than the dementia.

Activities done in the session I attended were ‘dementia bingo’, steps to make a cup of tea, having a dementia profile and a bookcase analogy.

Dementia champion Julie Jones says: ‘I’m a manager for a care company called Helping Hands.

‘I thought it would be a good idea to learn more about dementia, so took part in a workshop last July.

‘Since then I have become a dementia champion and have given training to around 40 people.

‘The session is simple – it’s all about raising awareness of dementia.

‘You don’t have to attend because you know someone directly that has the disease, but it can apply to, for example, shopkeepers to recognise what might be happening.

‘You don’t have to have a certain job, it could be so when you’re queuing in a shop you have more patience with the person in front of you because they are struggling to tell the difference between a 10p and 5p.

‘Often language around dementia is very negative – you hear people say “someone is suffering from dementia” when actually they are living with it.’

One of The News’ major pledges in its Take Care Together campaign is to double the number of dementia friends in the area.

There are 2,247 people living with the condition in Portsmouth, around 1,133 in Gosport, 1,819 in Fareham and 2,031 in Havant.

The Alzheimer’s Society charity said its research shows 850,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia.

But this is set to increase dramatically – in less than 10 years it will rise to 1m and will soar to 2m by 2051.

So we want to double the number of dementia friends – at the moment there are 1,416 in Portsmouth, 405 in Gosport, 662 in Fareham, 96 in Havant and 443 in Waterlooville.

Julie adds: ‘The bingo activity is aimed at making learning fun.

‘The scary thing is dementia can affect anyone, and people tend to learn more when they’re relaxed, so we try to do things in a fun way.

‘So everyone gets a sheet with different answers that will complete a sentence such as “dementia is not a natural part of...”

‘This way we see what people’s perception of the disease is, as well as teaching them something new.’

Another activity that challenges perceptions is the ‘profile challenge’.

Each person is given a slip of paper that has the profile of a person living with dementia.

After that the champion will read out various tasks and those on the workshop are asked to take a step forwards or backwards depending on whether they think their profiled person would carry it out.

‘One person will get chosen to read out the profile of their person, and at that point the room realises they have been given the same profile,’ says Julie.

‘You really get an idea of what people think about dementia and how they might be in those shoes.

‘And all the while people are talking and learning about it.’

Those who take a dementia course can then sign up for a dementia champions course.

The day-long workshop extends learning and also enables people to pass this training on to others.

Dr Janet Maxwell, director of public health for Portsmouth City Council, is urging people to back The News’ campaign and also become a dementia friend.

She says: ‘I wholeheartedly support The News’ campaign to raise awareness and increase support for those with dementia.

‘The city council is working hard to ensure a greater understanding of dementia among residents and working to improve the quality of life for both people with dementia and their carers.

‘Anyone can become a dementia friend.

‘By watching a short video or attending an information session you learn bit more about what it’s like to live with dementia and how you can turn that understanding into action.

‘The training helps you understand the issues faced by people living with the condition.

‘Even small things such as paying for food, making a cup of tea or filling in forms can be a challenge.

‘I would urge anyone who isn’t a dementia friend already to sign up so that together we can make life better for people with dementia.’

Dementia is an umbrella term describing a large group of symptoms that affect brain nerve cells, causing them to die.

There is currently no cure and the condition gets progressively worse.

A dementia friend workshop can either be done face-to-face or by watching an online video.

See the panel to the left and become a dementia friend today.