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Dementia Friends

Become a Dementia Friend - dementiafriends.org.uk

12,461 Dementia Friends in St Helens

 

St Helens is being challenged to become more dementia friendly and there are currently 12,461 Dementia Friends in St Helens.

We, together with our partners are working with the St Helens Star to raise awareness of dementia, bringing you stories of local people in your community.

John KellyMeet John Kelly, (64), a local man championing wellbeing and independence in the community for those with dementia.

John first began to notice symptoms of memory loss at work.

He said: “I would go to the office to get my jobs then wouldn’t be seen for the rest of the day. But one day I went into the office four times and my manager asked if anything was wrong. I didn’t realise I’d been in that many times. I started leaving tools where I shouldn’t. My wife booked me in to the doctors and we said we think there’s something wrong with my memory.”

Following his GP appointment, John was supported through a range of tests.

“They confirmed I had vascular dementia. I’d never even heard of dementia so didn’t feel too worried about it at first. But my wife explained what dementia was and I got a horrible feeling inside. As the symptoms developed I decided to take early retirement.”

But then he learned about a local support group for people with dementia and other memory loss problems, and soon his prospects started to seem more positive. “That’s when it changed for me; when I realised that I could still enjoy life and maintain my independence”.

John felt inspired and went on to create ‘Looking Forward’; local groups for persons with Dementia to discuss their experiences; enhancing knowledge and understanding, and potential for lifestyle improvement. John added. “I hold my own Looking Forward meetings – we’ve got four groups in St Helens – and I speak at events, sharing my experiences in the hope that someone in need will take away something positive.”

How can you get involved?

Share your story. Each month we will bring you stories about local people. Your experience of Dementia could also be included. Send your story to Public Health, Atlas House, WA9 1LD with your name and contact.

Why not become a Dementia Friend? It only takes five minutes and can make a big difference to those with dementia and their carers. Visit the Dementia Friends website today!

For more information about the Looking Forward groups, please contact John on 07930471664
 
For more information on dementia, call the Alzheimer’s Society on 0151 420 8010

Beyond the FringeBeyond the Fringe is a family-friendly hairdressers that has operated in St Helens for a number of years. Owner, Andrea Traynor said: “We’ve had lots of customers with dementia, both young and old. Our first experience of a customer with dementia was in our old salon – a lady who had been coming to the salon for years. We slowly started seeing it progress in her and she’d bring a little pad in with things written down that she had to remember. One lady used to come in every day as she’d forget what day it was; we’d let her come in and have a chat and we’d fill an appointment card out for her to remind her when her appointment was.”

Sometimes people with dementia can get restless whilst waiting so thinking about how to make all experiences positive is important. Jackie, one of the team’s stylists said: “We let our customers with dementia help out in the salon, giving them little jobs to do to occupy and calm them. As we’ve gained more experience around dementia, we can recognise the signs and react appropriately.

“Some of our customers with dementia might tell us things that we know aren’t true or accurate, like talking about a lost loved one still being alive, but it feels true to them, so we wouldn’t want to upset them by telling them they’re not right.”

Andrea added: “We would say that it’s important for other businesses to look to become more dementia friendly and that it can be as simple as just trying to be considerate to others. We’re also going to become Dementia Friends and learn more about the St Helens Dementia Action Alliance and would encourage other St Helens businesses to do the same.”

Share your story. Your experience of dementia could be included in our campaign. Send your story to Public Health, Atlas House, WA9 1LD with your name and contact details.

Why not become a Dementia Friend, as an individual or a workforce? It’s quick, simple and can make a big difference to those with dementia and their carers. Visit the Dementia Friends website to book a session!

For more information, including a ‘Creating a Dementia Friendly Workplace’ booklet, call the Alzheimer’s Society on 0151 420 8010.

Colin Davidson with members of the Council's Occupational Therapy and Public Health TeamsColin Davidson, age 46 from Parr, is a Dementia Friends Champion, which means he holds face-to-face Dementia Friends Information Sessions for local people.

“What people expect of the sessions is not what they get,” Colin says. “It’s different because it offers information and awareness of Dementia in an informal, personal and individual way. Whoever you are, wherever you may work, you’ll get something from it”.

“I’ve been involved in care for 30 years and Dementia is something that I’ve always been used to dealing with. I’m going to be working with local supermarkets to do some Dementia Friends sessions with their staff, and in my job at Newton Hospital, we’re working to transform the wards and make them more dementia friendly.”

Colin recently held a session for St Helens Council’s Occupational Therapy team. They talked about their experience: “Before we did the session, we thought it was just going to be more about the clinical side of it. But it was different and refreshing, learning about the potential personal experiences of someone with Dementia; it was more relatable that way.”

“I don’t think many people realise what Dementia Friends is – they think they probably have to do big things but it’s actually about the small things; learning more about the condition and to be aware of the signs and symptoms. Dementia Friends brings it out in the open and lifts the stigma.”


“By becoming a Dementia Friend, we can be more confident when supporting people with dementia. We come into contact with people with dementia all the time so the session was not only helpful for us professionally, but also personally. We would encourage local people to become Dementia Friends and help reduce the stigma of the condition. It will make for a better community, a Dementia Friendly community, you can’t buy that!”

Share your story. Your experience of Dementia could be included in our campaign. Send your story to Public Health, Atlas House, WA9 1LD with your name and contact details.

Why not become a Dementia Friend? It’s quick, simple and can make a big difference to those with dementia and their carers. Visit the Dementia Friends website to book a session!

For more information call the Alzheimer’s Society on 0151 420 8010.

St Helens Carers Centre Dementia Carers GroupThis story focuses on the experience of caring for someone with dementia – the good times and the difficult – after speaking to a support group at the St Helens Carers’ Centre.

One lady, Elaine Allen, is a carer for her husband who has dementia. She said: “It was my son who first noticed something was wrong. We went to the GP and after tests found out my partner has dementia. They tell you what dementia is and how to live well with it. But there’s a lot of information and it can be really frightening, even if you’re not the one with the condition!”

But Elaine sought support at the St Helens Carers’ Centre. “It’s difficult, you have to decide the right time to get support,” she explained. “But the welcome I got from the centre and the group was amazing – I went home feeling like a human being. The group listens to you and empathises. I walked out a lot happier than when I came in, feeling able to support my husband better.”

Other members of the group told us: “For some people it progresses very quickly, it’s a shock. It’s an isolating illness and you can feel that you can’t talk to anybody unless they’ve been through it. You can lose your friends – they become frightened of it and don’t know how to approach you. Some people can be patronising, they don’t understand it, and that’s what makes Dementia Friends so important – it’s changing perceptions and improving lives.”

“The best thing to do is to take it one day at a time. If the Carers’ Centre didn’t exist we don’t know where we’d be. Some of us wouldn’t have thought to come to a group but it’s the first thing we would recommend if a loved one is living with dementia.”

The same support could help you! Meetings are held on the first and third Wednesday of each month. Drop in between 11am and 1pm at the Adult Carers’ Centre, Baldwin Street, WA10 2RS. Call 01744 675615 for more information. The group is keen to encourage more men to get involved, telling us: “It’s a pity more men don’t come as every carer needs support sometimes.”


Share your story. Your experience of Dementia could be included in our campaign. Send your story to Public Health, Atlas House, WA9 1LD with your name and contact details.

Why not become a Dementia Friend? It’s quick, simple and can make a big difference to those with dementia and their carers. Visit the Dementia Friends website to book a session!

For more information call Alzheimer’s Society on 0151 420 8010.

St Helens College Students Become Dementia FriendsSt Helens College is committed to improving care for people with dementia through its vocational Health and Social Care courses, which take in around 300 students every year.

And the college recently sought to extend this commitment after reading some of our previous stories on dementia. College staff set up Dementia Friends sessions with some local Dementia Friends Champions – including Colin Davidson, who featured in a previous Star story – for students studying Dentistry, Public Services, Youth Work and Sports, that took place over two days.

Over 300 students and tutors took part and became Dementia Friends, giving the borough a big dementia friendly boost!

One Level 3 Extended Diploma in Health and Social Care student, Georgia McCormick said: “I’m currently studying to become a physiotherapist, so understanding more about dementia and how to spot the signs and symptoms will really help me in my future career when potentially helping elderly clients with their physiotherapy needs.”

Kelly Griffiths, Health, Sports and Public Services Lecturer at St Helens College, added: “I became a Dementia Friend not only because of my personal, family experience of the disease but to also help raise awareness and an understanding of it as it's a continuously growing issue. Students and staff found the sessions really beneficial so it’s fantastic to see that so many of them have signed up to the cause.”

Schools, businesses and organisations looking to make St Helens more dementia friendly, can join the Dementia Action Alliance (DAA). The national body aims to bring about a society-wide response to dementia, shaping policy and attitudes, and uniting community efforts under local alliances.

St Helens has its own DAA, which is looking to galvanise dementia friendly action within the borough and welcome new members.

New members must complete an Action Plan, setting out what they can do to make a difference to people living with dementia. Contact Jen Burgess at jennifer.burgess@alzheimers.org.uk, visit the Dementia Action Alliance website or call 01925 572 239 for more information.

Share your story. Your experience of Dementia could be included in our campaign. Send your story to Public Health, Atlas House, WA9 1LD with your name and contact details.

Why not become a Dementia Friend? It’s quick, simple and can make a big difference to those with dementia and their carers. Visit the Dementia Friends website to book a session!

For more information call the Alzheimer’s Society on 0151 420 8010.

St Helens YOuth Club Members with Annette French from the Alzheimer's SocietyMany people associate dementia with old age, but it affects younger people too.

It is estimated that there are 42,325 people in the UK who have been diagnosed with young onset dementia. They represent around 5 per cent of the 850,000 people with dementia, but the actual figure could be higher (6-9 per cent) because of the difficulties of diagnosing the condition.

For the people diagnosed earlier in life, there are particular issues. They’re likely to still be working; they may have dependent children or large financial commitments, such as a mortgage; there may be gaps in support services, which cater for older people; and their symptoms are often attributed to stress or depression, delaying diagnosis.

But at ‘The YOuth Club’ a group of local people living with Young Onset dementia and their families have found the support they need to live well.

“We set the group up to provide more meaningful and age-appropriate activities and support for those with young onset dementia,” said Annette French of Alzheimer’s Society, “and we’re proving that even though dementia is a difficult thing to deal with, we can still live well with it, create memories, have a laugh and celebrate our differences.”

The YOuth Club welcomes family of those living with young onset dementia and meets once a month, with support from Helena Partnerships. Members can share their views and take part in fun age-appropriate activities, like go-carting and pub lunches.

Its members said:

“It’s important that the whole family is educated about dementia too, to help them feel comfortable enough to talk about it.”

“We’ve lost friends because of my diagnosis – people feel uncomfortable and don’t know what to say – but we’ve made new friends at The YOuth Club.”

“Family dynamics can change dramatically when your partner is diagnosed. Suddenly you’re viewed by others as their carer, when you’re still their best friend, lover and partner. There’s also a natural grieving process after diagnosis of dementia, and it’s good to have space to air these complex feelings.”

To get involved, call Alzheimer’s Society on 0151 420 8010.

Share your story. Your experience of dementia could be included in our campaign. Send your story to Public Health, Atlas House, WA9 1LD with your name and contact details.

Why not become a Dementia Friend? It’s quick, simple and can make a big difference to those with dementia and their carers. Visit the Dementia Friends website to book a session!

Ladies from a local quilting group with comfort blankets they've made for people living with dementiaA popular local group has been making St Helens a more dementia friendly place to live for well over a decade, with its hand-crafted quilts, comfort blankets and twiddlemuffs.

Though not specifically a dementia supporting group – they also make quilts for residential care homes and premature babies – the group began to craft comforting blankets for people living with dementia after one member’s husband was diagnosed with the condition.

Alice (84) said: “My husband was diagnosed with dementia when he was 79. He’s passed away now, but when he went into hospital I told the staff about the group and that we’d like to make some blankets.

“So Lauren [Hanson, dementia nurse specialist] came out and did a dementia awareness session with the group. My husband would be messing with his sheets in the hospital but once he was given a comfort blanket it was the best thing as he would play with that.”

Lauren, a dementia nurse specialist for St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Comfort blankets and twiddlemuffs provide simple stimulation for active hands. They have different textured fabrics, ribbons and zips sewn to them, which provide a great source of visual and tactile sensory stimulation for people living with dementia.

“Patients of St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust who receive a blanket or twiddlemuff get to keep it and take it home with them.”

Residents willing to contribute to the group’s dementia friendly work can get involved or simply make a donation of haberdashery materials. Please contact Lauren Hanson via email: lauren.hanson@sthk.nhs.uk.

Share your story. Your experience of dementia could be included in our campaign. Send your story to Public Health, Atlas House, WA9 1LD with your name and contact details.

Why not become a Dementia Friend? It’s quick, simple and can make a big difference to those with dementia and their carers. Visit the Dementia Friends website to book a session!

Lauren Hanson, Dementia Nurse Specialist, and Marie Honey, Nurse Consultant for Older People's Services, and the lead for dementia at Whiston HospitalIn the last article, we saw how a community crafts group has linked up with Whiston Hospital to gift special tactile comfort blankets to in-patients living with dementia.

But Lauren Hanson, Dementia Nurse Specialist, showed us there’s much more going on at Whiston and St Helens hospitals to make them more dementia friendly places.

She said: “Our most recent initiative to make the hospital even more dementia friendly is signing up to John’s Campaign, which gives carers for those living with dementia the opportunity to stay with them whilst they’re in hospital. However, we understand that this may not always be possible for all carers and there is no reason for them to feel obliged to be there all the time.

“To establish John’s Campaign we have worked with local charity Hargreaves Dementia Trust, who kindly donated some fold-out beds for carers so that they can be as comfortable as possible when they stay with us.

“Sometimes it’s the small things that make a big difference, like the comfort blankets and twiddlemuffs. We also provide carers with a discount pass for the hospital restaurant, and have dementia friendly signage. All these elements and more combine to make the patients’ experience as positive as possible.”

“We also have some great resources, like our reminiscence rooms,” added Marie Honey, Nurse Consultant for Older People's Services, and the lead for dementia at the hospital.

“These are safe spaces for people on our dementia wards and their visitors and carers, and we’re constantly improving them. They’re decorated in 1950s and 1960s style, with all the furnishings of the period, including mock retro TVs and radios preloaded with old programmes, films and music. We’ve also built a mock 1950s grocery store which is a great way for staff and patients to interact.”

Lauren said: “Through the Dementia Link Group, we ensure that dementia friendly initiatives are happening at both Whiston and St Helens hospitals and there are dementia champions across both sites.

“We believe that dementia is everybody’s business, not just professionally, but personally too, many people’s lives are touched by dementia and it’s only through community engagement that we can create a truly dementia friendly place to live and work.”

Why not become a Dementia Friend? It’s quick, simple and can make a big difference to those with dementia and their carers. Visit the Dementia Friends website to book a session!