It’s a sobering thought that in less than a decade more than one million people in this country will be living with dementia.
Add in family and friends who are helping them with the problems they face on a day to day basis, and the figure increases significantly.
Dementia affects one in 14 people over the age of 65, and by the time they have reached their 80s the figure is one in six. If those figures are broken down locally, a town the size of Morpeth could have 282 people living with dementia.
The two most common forms are Alzheimers and vascular dementia.
Although such a distressing condition is not confined exclusively to older generations, there is no getting away from the fact that we are living in an ageing society so it follows that the numbers will only get worse. Over the next 20 years the number of people aged 65 or over will reach 19 million, while those 80 years or above will increase at an even faster rate.
Dementia exhibits itself in different ways, including memory loss and aspects of thinking, reasoning and perception, but the Alzheimer’s Society believes there is a way all of us can help.
People living with dementia may become withdrawn, stop doing some of the things they once did, give up exercise, shopping or using public transport, and suffer from loneliness.
The society has devised a ‘dementia friendly’ programme to transform the way we think and talk about dementia by raising awareness and ensuring people diagnosed with it can feel understood, valued and able to continue contributing to society — to feel part of, not apart from, society.
That is something I feel so strongly about that I am planning sessions where people can join me to become a ‘dementia friend’, starting at Bedlington Community Centre on Friday, September 7, from 12.30pm to 2.30pm. It will be led by the Alzhiemer’s Society and I will be taking part.
We are planning more ‘dementia friendly’ sessions across our constituency. Capacity at Bedlington is limited so anyone wishing to attend should contact my office on 01670 852494 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Initiatives are also taking place in Morpeth and Newbiggin to further support those living with dementia. I hope the sessions will prove effective in making all of our communities ‘dementia friendly’ as soon as possible.
Becoming a ‘dementia friend’ is not difficult. All you have to do is to attend one of our sessions and you will leave with a better understanding of dementia and the small things you can do to help, such as being more patient in a supermarket queue if someone ahead of you is struggling to cope, or committing to spending time with someone who has been diagnosed. Crucially, that might also give their carer a break.
Perhaps you might consider volunteering to be part of a group providing events or facilities for people with dementia, like the Memory Café, which meets fortnightly at Morpeth Methodist Church for tea, coffee, a biscuit and friendly chat.
Family or friends caring for someone with dementia are also welcome to pop along to the café on a Thursday, from 10.30am to noon.
Shops, businesses, leisure outlets, cafes and restaurants can also get involved by sending someone to one of the sessions.
They will learn about small changes they can make to help, such as having staff available if someone with dementia needs extra assistance, making sure signs are easily understood, or even designating a quiet area where someone could take five minutes out from a busy environment.
These are just a few small steps we can all take, but they could have a huge impact on understanding the problems people diagnosed with dementia face.