Next Monday I am going to the Tyneside town of Corbridge, where they are going to Dementia Friendly.
To me it's a real honour to be asked to attend this event, and hopefully after Monday other North East Towns will follow.
We need to make all of the UK, Dementia Friendly, a place where everyone living with any form of Dementia or Neurological Illness can live the lives they require, and indeed deserve, rather than the type of country, where they are told what they can and cannot do.
In the past people with dementia were kept away from the public, but now we see those in the early to mid-stages regularly on the streets, and can sometimes be seen campaigning, for better conditions for others less fortunate than us.
With the right help they can all go on to achieve better things, as it has been proved that people can live well with dementia, if they are diagnosed early enough, given the correct medication and support they need.
However to do this we need to totally change people’s attitudes towards dementia, and in the process remove the horrible stigma which still exists with this illness today.
A stigma we saw in the 1960s when Cancer was mentioned in the neighbourhood, and in many cases was thought of as a dirty word, now however, that has gone and we see the stigma in dementia.
To do this we need to re-educate everyone, and tell them what dementia is, and remove the myths that we see and hear, when we are giving talks etc.
We must also encourage those with early onset dementia, to go out into the community where they will hopefully get support and guidance for the future, to enable them to live an independent and active life as a real part of the community.
We must also start to re-educate people about this illness, from raising awareness of our symptoms and problems, to explaining how others can help us
Many young people are starting to recognise that their Grandparents are ill, and they want to know how they can help, so we should start with these young people and then go into places like schools, shops, banks, and other public places, where people with dementia would like to go, but in many cases they are frightened.
It’s well known that social media can play a major part in raising awareness, as many youngsters use places like Face Book and Twitter.
On these there are many sites where dementia is openly discussed and any questions can be asked.
The task of creating a dementia friendly community has been a long time in coming, but over the last two or three years, it has taken a big step forward and people are starting to listen and take interest, something which we dared not even consider before.
However dementia friendly communities can only exist where there is a willingness to share information between the people, the policy makers, media and business.
At the heart of all raising awareness campaigning, there must be people with first-hand experience of Dementia whether they are living with it, caring for someone with it, or have done so in the past
As one person put it recently, you cannot tell people what to do or say, unless you have the illness, because it’s only when you have dementia that you really understand what it’s like to live with it
These people are the pioneers, who can lead the way in helping the whole country feel as passionate about dementia care as we done
As a well-known phrase goes, from small acorns grow big trees
We must remember that there is more than one type of dementia, and no two people have the same symptoms and problems
It upsets some people with dementia, when they hear someone say, that all people with dementia are the same. In fact there are well over 120 variations of this illness, so we must make allowances for all.
Another quite common idea these days is that, people with dementia cannot speak, or do anything for them selves
I have even come across people who thought the illness was contagious, and others who thought that when you get the illness you become deaf.
So where does this all come from is it the old stigma.
One day I heard someone say, that if a person has Alzheimer’s, they are not worth bothering with, because they cannot take an active part, simply because they hardly speak.
These people tend to take more notice that anyone else, so it proves that this idea is totally unfounded and wrong.
Their actions and facial expressions tell you all you need to know. All you have to do is spend time watching what they are doing, and not make rash decisions about them
To really get dementia friendly communities to work we must
Try to understand the illness
Help and support those with the illness
We may have dementia, but we are still normal people
We may act strangely at times, but that’s because we are out of our comfort zone
A good friend of mine has been working with Banks so that we can get more support when needed. This means that people with dementia can go into any bank and not be made look stupid
The reason being that banks could not or did not realise, that people with dementia struggle with, or cannot use Credit and Bank cards.
I think that they found this heard to accept
Trevor Jarvis from Doncaster, a person with Vascular Dementia, took up the challenge to make banks understand just how hard it is to use these cards in Banks, or withdraw money from cash machines etc.
After three long years this has now paid off, and we must applaud him for his sheer gusts and determination, to do this on his own and succeed.
Through this my wife and I have been working in some branches of Lloyds bank to make them dementia friendly, and this is paying off.
However this is only one small part of a major problem, which like it or not, is only understood by those living with the illness. Unless large companies etc., take notice of what they are being told by people with dementia, they will never move on.
Now we must ensure that every town, shop, hotel, and public service, are more dementia friendly, something we hardly see these days, but it’s improving by the day.
Churches can also do there bit, by arranging, services for those with the illness, Services which are short and to the point, without long sermons, and by using old well known hymns
We should now encourage local businesses to have standard easy to understand signs on their premises and have dementia friendly layouts, to cut back on confusion, when trying to find something
If we start early enough we can achieve something that would have been classed as impossible ten years ago, so it’s up to everyone to go out and changes things for the future
So let’s all go out and show the Country what is needed, small changes soon become big changes
Show them what help we need
Help people to understand our needs