In the 80s my Nana developed Alzheimers. It was manageable at first, she didn't remember things very well and became confused but Grandad was able to cope.
But things got worse slowly. She started having accidents around the house and one night the police found her wandering around Hardwick in her nightie having got out of the house while he was asleep.
There wasn't specialist support available to help her or Grandad to keep her at home, nor medicine. Mum looked after them both, calling in every day and for a while that was fine but in the end residential care was the only answer and she moved into a home.
The staff did their best but things were very different then. The focus was on containment rather than active support. Sometimes when we visited she would be wearing someone else's clothes; or worse their teeth. Within two weeks of going in she had forgotten how to walk because the first thing they did was put her in a wheelchair even though there was physically nothing the matter with her. It was not a happy end.
Recently I was invited to the launch of a new Stockton service to support people with dementia and their carers. Life is very different now for people with Dementia and with Alzheimers. With professional support, advice for carers and with medicine, people can delay the progress of the disease, they can stay at home for much longer and have a more settled and calm life.
I am particularly impressed with the Halcyon Centre in Thornaby which offers an excellent day care service; on my last visit I sat with people in small groups who were knitting and sewing, cooking, gardening, playing dominoes, exercising and dancing.
It is a world away from sitting around the edges of a large room, in a wing backed chair, isolated and frightened.
I have taken the training to become a Dementia Friend and am now able to signpost residents and their carers to this new service, indeed I have already done so for one lady in the last few weeks so it has been particularly useful.
1100 people in Stockton South are estimated to be living with dementia although not all are diagnosed. Nationally, only half of people living with dementia receive a diagnosis, and though 2013/14 figures for Hartlepool and Stockton CCG were higher than this at 64%, there is still lots of work to be done.
Diagnosis is the gateway to accessing advice and support and a timely diagnosis enables people to adapt and plan for the future rather than accessing support when they reach crisis point.
If you want to learn more about becoming a dementia friend or are looking for support for yourself or someone you care about, please get in touch with Trish, our local Dementia Adviser on 01642 442030 or visit the website on http://www.dementiafriends.org.uk