Making County Durham a Dementia Friendly community

Making County Durham, Dementia friendly

Many people like myself, who have one or other form of dementia, would like to see the whole of County Durham and other Counties changing, so that the whole Country becomes a Dementia Friendly place to live.

But to do that we need to change the way people treat those with the illness and change attitudes, by re-educating everyone.

Some parts of the UK have succeeded in doing this, including, Stockton in the North East which is now well on the way to doing that, and they must be commended for doing something positive.

Dementia like all Neurological illnesses is very hard to understand, and how many times have we seen stories of ill treatment, which are like it or not are down to misunderstanding of common neurological illnesses.

If these same people had been given the chance to explain their medical problems to someone with common sense and tact, we would not have these horror stories in the daily press.

We saw someone who had Parkinson’s disease being arrested by the police because they thought he was acting strangely. He had tried to explain his problems, but the police refused to listen.

But then when we look at it everyone who has Parkinson’s or Lewy Body Dementia, we nearly all act the same way, but that is down to the condition and nothing else, and to say anything else beggars belief, because that comes down to a total lack of care and understanding.

We sometimes have the misfortune to come out with the wrong words, when we are caught unawares, but it’s the brain which is not working properly, we are not doing this to cause trouble. 

However the aim of this object is to make life as easy as possible for those who have dementia, and to achieve this we must change the way people react to us, and change the culture.

So we must educate everyone in the community about this neurological illness dementia in particular, so that people who ever they are or where they are can understand what is going on and not jump to conclusions 

To make these communities dementia friendly we need everyone on board, from the charities, to social services, councils, whether local or county, local business, police, fire brigade etc.

Each of these has a major place in making a community dementia friendly, but they have to be fully committed to being involved, and not just doing it to make it look as if they may get something from it.

They will gain in the end as this project picks up momentum, but they will all need to work at it. Some time ago I spoke to our County Council about Dementia, and many councillors looked very interested, but nothing seems to have happened since.

I think this is because they like many other groups think that dementia is still age related, something we all know is very wrong now, as people as young as thirty are now being diagnosed with one form of dementia or another.

I have heard of large shops being interested, yet still today many of these places are nightmares for people with dementia, and that is because of all the goods trolley’s etc., left standing in the isles and in many cases the isles have been made even narrower by piles of others items which are there to catch the eye of shoppers.

 If the isles are wide enough they are no problem, but most people with neurological illnesses need to have space so they do not feel as if they are being boxed in.

We problems with special awareness

 Many would say that if we are not happy we should not go shopping, but not all shops have the same problems and to be honest, if everyone who had these illnesses stopped shopping in these places we can guess who would have to move first, and I know that it won’t be us but the owners.

But to get this moving the owners of the shops, the Council, Police Ambulance and fire chiefs etc., need to have someone with the illness on board and ask their advice,  and then take it on board, as we know what it’s like to live with this illness on a daily basis.

Charities know about the illness, but not all fully understand our problems.

It also has to be taken on board that many people with dementia struggle when they are panicking and then come across someone in uniform, so the Police Fire Brigade and Ambulance services need to be aware of this.

It would be lovely to have dementia friendly shops and caf├ęs and services in all towns, rather than the ones we have today where everyone is in a hurry, to either serve you or clear up before you have started.

 Many shop staff live in a world of their own especially in supermarkets, and they don’t seem interested in the fact that you may be struggling to cope.

Many people in the community who have this illness like me would gladly go and talk to groups or businesses about our problems in the hope that we could help, and I have done this on many occasion privately, and not through charities.

This service is usually free of charge as we want to help, occasionally we may ask for travelling expenses, but on the whole that is very cheap when you get first-hand knowledge of who to set things up which in the end will benefit the whole community, as most families are touched by one neurological illness or another.

Many people who have dementia feel isolated, either because they have no family or friends, nearby, or in some cases their friends simply disappear into the woodwork when someone gets this illness.

 I have even been asked if this illness was contagious, something which too my by surprise at the time, but it’s a question which is quite common.

If we can encourage schools to allow pupils to learn about dementia, things will improve dramatically as it’s the youngsters of today, who will remove the myths and stigma in dementia. These people will also help shape the future as far as dementia is concerned. Many school children are seeing grandparents with the illness and want to find out more about it, so it’s worth working with schools etc., as a starting point.

There are around 800-00 people in the UK with some form of dementia, and around 16-000 of those are under the age of 65 which proves the illness is not age related.

We need to change things so that in the future people can live at home for longer, as it’s what many want, to be free and enjoying their lives without other people saying what they will and won’t do.

Once a person is diagnosed and get medication they should be encouraged to carry on working if they can, as it keeps their brains active, and as my consultant once said, you either use it or lose it.

There are many activities and courses in the community for people with other illness, as well as carers for people with dementia, but there are very few if any for those with dementia, simply because the organisers don’t understand the illness.

Like many people I enjoy painting, but there are no courses in Durham for this, although I said before there are plenty for our carers.

One common fact that people with dementia struggle with is this, we all have problems judging the speed of traffic, and in Durham there are no speed restrictions in town centres especially near schools and churches, something we are now seeing around the UK.
It would help may if all town centres etc, had speed restrictions especially near shops church's and schools. 

So perhaps that is the next step to a better and safer dementia friendly environment   


Let us all work together and create a UK wide dementia friendly community


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