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Town’s striving to be dementia-friendly

Lion President Richard Nash (third from left), with Guy Kirk (fourth left) and Lions Club of Morpeth members following the talk about Dementia Friends.
Lion President Richard Nash (third from left), with Guy Kirk (fourth left) and Lions Club of Morpeth members following the talk about Dementia Friends.

Morpeth Lions Club

“Let’s make Morpeth a dementia-friendly community,” was the message that Dementia Champion Guy Kirk recently delivered to the Lions Club of Morpeth.

The club would normally meet on the second and third Tuesdays of each month. However, to enable Guy to give a full presentation, an extra meeting was held for members and partners.

Morpeth resident Guy started by explaining that he has a background of working in the social services sector and is the franchise holder for Home Instead South East Northumberland, which provides support to enable older people to remain living independently in their own homes for as long as possible. His staff often support people living with dementia.

It was partly because of this that he became a Dementia Champion for the Alzheimer’s Society, delivering Dementia Friends information sessions that raise awareness about the condition. The programme is the biggest initiative to change people’s perceptions of dementia.

There are many forms of dementia, the most common being Alzheimer’s, and this has become the biggest health and social care challenge in the UK.

Every three minutes someone is diagnosed with the condition and whilst this affects mainly older people (one in 14 over 65, one in four over 80) there are 40,000 people with dementia in the country under the age of 65. Some 70 per cent of people living in care homes have dementia.

Guy explained that as we age it is natural that we forget some things or find facts harder to recall. When this becomes a problem, however, it is often fear or the fear of stigma that prevents people from approaching their doctor.

However, a lot can be done to alleviate the condition and give support, both to those living with dementia and their carers.

Patience, speaking clearly and more slowly, being friendly, and sometimes taking a person to a quiet location, can all help.

Guy explained that every action counts, even something small like being more patient in a supermarket queue if the person in front of you is acting in a confused manner or taking longer to process the cash transaction.

Many of the Lions and their partners have signed up to be Dementia Friends. This need only involve wearing a ‘forget me not’ badge. In this way someone living with dementia, or their carer, might notice the badge and know that the wearer will have an understanding of dementia and may be able to offer support if needed.

A small committee has been formed in Morpeth with a view to making Morpeth a dementia-friendly town. The initiative is called Dementia Friendly Morpeth and aims to raise awareness about dementia, encourage people and businesses to become Dementia Friends and to think about small ways we can all help make our community friendly and accessible for people living with dementia.

This will not only enhance the town’s already welcoming image, but also give support to all those living with dementia. Another local initiative is the Memory Café, held every two weeks on a Thursday in Morpeth Methodist Church. This is to help anyone living with dementia and their carers, and they can be assured of a friendly welcome.