The Way Life Used To Be – March 2014

In 2012 David Cameron launched his ‘Challenge on Dementia’ campaign with an emphasis on improving diagnosis, improving the quality of services and raising awareness in the wider community. The statistics are frightening: including family members there are over 800,000 people directly affected by dementia in the UK and this figure is expected to double in the next 30 years. David Cameron’s ambition is that by 2015 there will be at least 20 cities, towns and villages working together as dementia-friendly communities. Honiton is hoping to be one of them.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society three-quarters of the people in the UK feel that society is not geared up to deal with dementia; 3 in 5 (61%) people diagnosed with dementia are left feeling lonely; 4 in 5 (77%) feel anxious or depressed and nearly half (44%) have lost friends.

My belief is that this is due mainly to ignorance and a lack of understanding by the public at large about what is a very complex and distressing illness.  The following story is taken from an article in ‘Devon Life’ and it describes perfectly how easy it is to be ‘unaware’ and unthinking:

“’Mary’ has lived in Honiton for many years. She used to work in an office before her dementia made it difficult for her to keep focussed and accurate and she still likes to go out to the shops. Recently she went into one retailer, chose her items and went to the checkout. Once they’d been run through the till, she realised that she had forgotten her money. The new cashier, still in his first week, fumbled and became a bit embarrassed. The man in the queue behind Mary looked disgruntled and made no effort to disguise his harrumphing. All this agitated Mary, making the cashier more embarrassed and the man more ‘harrumphic’. Fortunately a more senior cashier came over, calmed things down, made Mary feel safe and the world continued to turn without mishap – at least for a few moments.”

Becoming a dementia-friendly town is about creating a culture within communities that gives a voice to those with dementia, supporting them to live independently and well. One of the ways in which this has been achieved is the setting up of Memory Cafés and the Honiton Memory Café has been in existence since for over two years. Open twice a month it provides an informal, social place where dementia sufferers and their carers can go for advice and support.

Now the town has gone one step further to becoming dementia-friendly by holding an art exhibition at the Thelma Hulbert Gallery called ‘Recollection’. Around 50 artists, including Alan Cotton and Jenni Dutton (whose own mother has dementia) have donated their work on the theme of ‘recollection’. The exhibition runs from 15th March until 19th April and on Friday 25th April (7.00pm) the artworks will be auctioned and the proceeds will be shared by the Honiton Memory Café, the Honiton League of Friends and Thelma Hulbert Gallery’s Learning Programme.

Visual ‘triggers’ are often used in dementia support work to remind sufferers of the way life used to be. Old photographs of loved ones, favourite places and familiar objects help make their ‘new’ diminishing world less strange and less forbidding. The Recollections exhibition will not only inform the public, it will also provide a fund-raising opportunity to help support both dementia sufferers and their carers in future years.

Jenni Dutton has produced a work in wool and thread called The Dementia Darnings. To view them go to:

www.jennidutton.com/dementiadarnings

For more information on the ‘Recollections’ exhibition go to:

www.chilcottsauctioneers.co.uk

For more information on Dementia go to:

www.honitonmemorycafe.co.uk

www.alzheimers.org.uk  

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