Cumbrian people are being urged to 'remember the person' during this year's Dementia Awareness Week between 3 - 9 July and to find out more at displays and drop-in advice sessions at Cumbria's main libraries.
Each year, 100,000 people in the UK develop dementia. In Cumbria, the number of people with dementia is expected to rise substantially from about 7000 in 2010 to nearly 13000 in 2030 as our population ages. Most of us know someone whose life has been touched by it in some way. But even if you don't, there is plenty you can do to help improve the quality of life of people affected by dementia.
The term 'dementia' is used to describe the symptoms that occur when the brain is affected by specific diseases and conditions. These include Alzheimer's disease and sometimes as a result of a stroke.
Dementia is progressive, which means the symptoms will gradually get worse. How fast dementia progresses will depend on the individual. Each person is unique and will experience dementia in their own way. The symptoms include memory loss, mood changes and communication problems. In the later stages, someone with dementia will find it difficult managing even simple tasks, and will need more and more support from others.
There is no cure for dementia yet, but there are some treatments that can delay the progression of some forms of dementia, and there is ongoing research into finding a cure.
Information stands on dementia will be available throughout the week in the main libraries across the county and staff and volunteers from the agencies that make up the Cumbria Dementia Board will be available between 10am - 12pm, Monday 4 - Friday 8 July. The displays and drop-in sessions will be available at the following libraries: Carlisle, Workington, Whitehaven, Barrow, Ulverston, Kendal, Grange, Penrith, Kirkby Stephen, Keswick, Wigton, Maryport, Seascale, Millom, Dalton and Walney. The sessions are a joint effort between Cumbria County Council, Cumbria NHS, Age UK, Carers Associations and The Alzheimer's Society.
Also available at the library roadshows will be the Dementia at Home guide. A safe and well designed living environment is a key part of providing the best care for people with dementia. While not all people with dementia will experience problems making sense of their environment, small or simple changes made to a person with dementia's home, can help them to be as independent as possible for as long as possible. It can also help to overcome the impact of dementia and can help to reduce stress and anxiety levels. The guide was produced by the Care Sector Alliance in conjunction with Cumbria County Council and the NHS. It can also be downloaded by visiting cumbria.gov.uk.
Mike Godridge, Chair of Cumbria Dementia Programme Board which is responsible for the implementation of the Cumbria dementia strategy said: "improving life with dementia is everybody's business. Key aims of our strategy in Cumbria are to raise awareness of life with dementia, encourage people to seek help early, promote early diagnosis and improve the access to and the responsiveness of care and support."
Councillor James Airey, Cumbria County Council Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care said: "In Cumbria, a quarter of our population are males over the age of 65 and females over the age of 60 - and this figure is set to increase over the coming years. Dementia can be extremely debilitating and difficult to live with - not only for those individuals who are suffering with the condition but also for those who care for affected people. The aim of Dementia Awareness Week is to make more of us aware about this increasingly prevalent condition and improve our understanding of what can be done to make lives easier for both sufferers and carers alike.
Councillor Gary Strong, Cumbria County Council Cabinet Member for Safer and Stronger Communities said: "Initiatives such as these are incredibly important as they raise the profile of debilitating conditions which are present in our communities. We would encourage as many people as possible to visit their nearest participating Library and 'remember the person' during Dementia Awareness Week.
The Alzheimer's Society offers the following tips on how you can help a family living with dementia.
1. Treat the person with respect and dignity
When someone you know has dementia, it's easy to focus on the dementia instead of the individual. But it's important to remember that someone with dementia is still a unique and valuable person, just like anyone else.
2. Be a good listener
When someone has dementia, or is supporting a loved one with dementia, it can really help them to talk things through. You can help by making time to listen - even if this is just with a short weekly phone call to see how they are.
3. Be a good communicator
People with dementia can become confused at times, so it's important to communicate clearly with them. Try to speak calmly, waiting for signs that the person has understood what you have said.
4. Remember that the little things can mean a lot
Doing something that seems very small can make a big difference to someone living with dementia. Dropping in for a cup of tea, or helping them organise their photo album, can make them feel that someone cares.
5. Stay in touch
People with dementia and their loved ones can easily become isolated as dementia progresses.
6. Offer practical help
Two thirds of people with dementia live at home. Even those who are independent may welcome help with some tasks. Carers may be glad of help too - not least because they're often short of time. Help the person tackle something on the 'to do list' - cut the grass, put the rubbish out, cook a meal or run an errand.
7. Organise a treat
Almost everyone enjoys a special treat now and again. It can be something to look forward to and a welcome break from everyday routine.
8. Help different family members in different ways
It is not only the person with dementia who is affected by this condition - it also has an impact on anyone who is close to them. Some family members may dedicate a lot of time to caring responsibilities, and little time to do practical things like tidying the house, let alone reading a book or having a soak in the bath. Filling in as a carer from time to time will offer welcome relief.
9. Find out more about dementia
The more you know about dementia, the more comfortable you will feel spending time with the person with dementia or their loved ones. Visit www.alzheimers.org.uk to find more information.