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Haddenham 'Dementia Friends'

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The Dementia Friends briefing held at the village hall on Tuesday 7th March drew representatives from a number of village organisations and also a visitor from Suffolk. Ali Merryweather, from Aylesbury, gave an engaging and thought provoking presentation, focusing on five key themes:

  • Dementia is not a natural part of ageing
  • It is caused by diseases of the brain
  • It's not just about losing your memory
  • It's possible to live well with dementia
  • There is more to a person than the dementia

The presentation included some interesting insight into the nature of the condition. While recent memory tends to fade, longer-term memories last longer and emotions are the last to wane. Whilst the memory of a fun day out with friends may dissolve quickly, the happiness and associations of it remain.

Ali recounted a fascinating anecdote of an elderly lady who walked about a nursing home tapping on tables, which irritated everyone. Only when a distant relative visited and did some research, they found out that she had been one of the code-breaking team at Bletchley Park and was tapping out morse code. They contacted local organisations interested in the subject and people came to learn morse code from her! When people at the nursing home knew why she tapped on tables, it was much easier to deal with.

As one attendee on Tuesday put it, it was quite fun — though that is not a word you would associate with a degenerative disease like dementia. Recognising that one person in 14 over the age of 65 will be diagnosed with dementia at some stage, it is important to look for positive ways to address the issue.

Dementia Friends seeks to change peoples' attitudes and assumptions about dementia so that those who have it and those who support them are able to live better, happier lives. Home support and care for those with the condition is addressed separately: and there are many organisations engaged in this.

After Ali's presentation (and a cup of tea) participants discussed how we could help make Haddenham a more supportive community for those with dementia. It is proposed that we set up a Haddenham Dementia Friends group based on representatives from organisations that support this aim. Many communities around the country are doing this and there is a wealth of information about how to engage with local businesses and organisations to raise and maintain awareness and understanding of the nature of dementia and the needs of those who have it. A major step would be for the parish council to include this as an objective in its forward plan.

It was observed that it is not easy to attract people to come to a presentation on dementia: how do you describe such an event in a way that people will attend?

A first step in raising awareness will be for supporting organisations to run their own Dementia Friends information sessions: people feel happier going to events run by their own clubs. Ali Merryweather advised that volunteers like her are keen to come and give presentations to organisations like the Rotary Club, U3A, Haddenham Age Concern and church groups. Perhaps the parish council might consider hosting such a presentation?

If you would like to contribute to making Haddenham a more dementia friendly village, perhaps you can ask your club or other organisation if they might consider running a Dementia Friends information session.

For more information, contact David Lyons — Tel: 01844 296174 or Email: dakeyd10@gmail.com

or visit: www.dementiafriends.org.uk/

Grateful thanks are extended to Brenda Bonnage for sorting out the hall and providing teas!

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