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Summary of Dementia Friends Presentation to St Mary's PCC

8th January, 2019

Jeremy Stretton, local Dementia Champion with the Alzheimer's Society gave the FCC a 50 minute interactive presentation on dementia awareness. The material is designed by the Alzheimer's Society and aims to help improve the participants understanding of dementia diseases/conditions, how to help remove the potential stigmas in society and enable those living with dementia to have a better life experience in however small a way.

Dementia Friends is a social action movement that aims to increase understanding and inspire people to take action to support those living with dementia in their community.

The presentation included some participative exercises to illustrate the 'key messages' being:

1. Dementia is not a natural part of ageing - people have been diagnosed under 20 years of age
2. Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain - just like other diseases healthy lifestyle can help reduce the chance of developing dementia. Imagine the brain as a vast collection of fairy lights each representing a fact, memory or function of the brain. Over time dementia causes some of those lights to dim, flicker or go out. For each person this will happen in a different order.
3. Dementia is not just about losing your memory - it can also affect communication, motor skills, sequencing (the order in which parts of a task are carried out), changes in inhibitions and vision (such as lodging distances) for instance.
4. It is possible to live well with dementia - living well means different things for different people. Despite their challenges, support and understanding will help add value to their lives.
5. There is more to the person than the dementia - Jeremy gave the example of a lady resident in a care home who was constantly tapping her fingers on the tabletops. It was very annoying for staff and other residents. One day her niece visited from Australia. They discovered that the lady resident had been a code breaker in Bletchley Park during the war and was reliving code-breaking Morse Codes. People's attitudes changed - they saw her as a heroine and were able to manage her behaviour through empathy.

At any one time, one in 14 people over 65 has dementia.

Jeremy illustrated the loss of most recent factual memory first, adding that the emotions relating to those lost factual memories are likely to remain which can cause confusion for the person with dementia and those around them.

The PCC participants were each handed a slip of paper giving them a scenario to role-play. They were all asked a series of questions of their capability to perform simple tasks as the person described on their slip of paper. All agreed that at the end of the exercise where many different answers were given, no-one was right an no-one was wrong. It illustrated that we all have different level of judgement about what those living with dementia may be capable of.

There were a number of interesting and relevant questions throughout the FCC session.

Jeremy thanked everyone for their input and the 13 participants received the Dementia Friends "Welcome to Dementia Friends' information card and a Dementia Friends lapel badge.

Fr Philip thanked Jeremy for his presentation and all expressed their appreciation.