This year I’m getting involved in Dementia Awareness Week, which runs from 14th – 20th May. There is a lack of awareness and understanding of dementia, subsequently resulting in barriers to diagnosis and care, and impacting caregivers, families and societies physically, psychologically and economically.
Dementia is overwhelming, not only for the people who have it, but also for their caregivers and families. I’ve experienced first hand the strain that having a relative with dementia can put on your loved ones. My nan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease back in 2001 and the speed of her decline was frightening. She went from leading a seemingly normal life living at home with my grandad, to requiring specialist dementia care within a matter of months.
Dementia is a syndrome, usually of a chronic or progressive nature, caused by a variety of brain illnesses that affect memory, thinking, behaviour and ability to perform everyday activities.
My grandad was desperate to keep my nan at home with him for as long as possible. But he had his own health problems to deal with too and he soon began to struggle maintaining the level of care that my nan needed. We began looking at suitable care homes where my nan would be well looked after, and somewhere close by so my grandad could hop on the bus and visit every day. Just a few weeks later she was settled into her new home and we went to see her.
I always had visions of care homes being quiet, dark and quite frankly a little bit depressing. But that’s not the case. My nan’s room was spacious and well lit and the care staff were always putting on activities and encouraging the residents to get involved where possible. Light music was always being played in the background, films were on TV and they had an extensive library full of books. My grandad described it like ‘a hotel for old people’ – and that’s exactly what it felt like. My nan’s final days were as comfortable as they could be and that’s largely thanks to the care home staff who looked after her until the very end.
There are an estimated 47.5 million people living with dementia worldwide, and it’s time they are recognised and treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve.
To find out how you can get involved in Dementia Awareness Week you can do so here. Events are being held all over the country and by uniting, we can raise awareness, offer help and understanding, improve care and urgently ﬁnd a cure.