How Can You Support People Living With Dementia?

Dementia is a disease which affects so many people in this country. You may have a family member with dementia or know a friend who has a family member with dementia- whatever your connection, it is a life-changing condition and something that is on the rise with an ageing population in the UK.

John Lewis’ 2015 Christmas advert in support of Age UK brought loneliness, in particular loneliness among our elderly, to the attention of more people. Loneliness often falls hand in hand with dementia – the confusion dementia often brings, not to mention the worry of what the future entails, can cause a feeling of isolation and anxiety among our elderly.

It is estimated that there are around 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, of which 5% are under the age of 65. The risk of developing dementia increases with age meaning that 1 in 14 people over the age of 65 currently live with dementia. Despite this, it is important to remember dementia is not a normal part of the ageing process and it entails more than just memory loss.

Last October, The Manchester Global Health Society held its first Dementia Friends session led by Professor Alistair Burns, (Professor of Old Age Psychiatry and the National Clinical Director for Dementia). Professor Burns gave an entertaining and informative talk about dementia to a 150-person audience – the diverse audience was made up of students from local schools, members of the public including partners of dementia sufferers. This was followed by a touching Q&A session with a people’s panel. The audience were captivated and taken on a journey – discovering what living with dementia might entail and what we as individuals can do to help.

Along with the MCR Global Health Committee, I signed up as a Dementia Friend and I urge everyone, whether you work in healthcare or not, to do the same – and in doing so learn more about dementia.

Becoming a Dementia Friend is so easy and it will open your mind up to at least a snippet of how living with dementia might feel and what you can do to support someone living with dementia.

You can become a dementia friend by clicking here.

The most important thing I took away from the session is that dementia does not define a person and anyone can still live a good life with dementia as long as they are surrounded with the love, support and comfort that all humans deserve, especially our elderly.

After the event members of the audience made personal pledges to learn about dementia and support those with dementia – here are some of the amazing pledges:

–  ‘Feel more confident about talking to my nan. Tell my family members about how people with dementia will remember the good feelings they got from your interaction, even if they can’t remember the event that made those feelings.’

–  ‘To continue to work in dementia research to try and help improve the lives of people living with dementia alongside them’

–  ‘Raise awareness about Dementia and how we can tackle the issue as a collective rather than on our own! #Weareallinthistogether’

–  ‘Aim to reduce the stigma surrounding dementia by talking to other about what I have learned.’

Caitlin Sheehy

Caitlin Sheehy is currently in third year studying medicine in Manchester and vice-president of the society. She is interested in promoting Global Health in the Medical School and also reaching out to other societies and the local community to raise awareness of the issues faced in Public and Global Health. Caitlin is from Leicester and in her free time enjoys running, with plans to run the London Marathon next year.Caitlin Sheehy

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