'Dementia is everyone's problem': Carer's rallying call at conference
PUBLISHED: 19:57 10 November 2018 | UPDATED: 09:07 11 November 2018
A major attitude shift is needed to alter people’s mindsets about the growing problem of dementia in Suffolk, a leading campaigner has said.
Ipswich mayor Roger Fern, who has cared for his wife Pat since she was diagnosed with the condition in December 2010, said great progress had been made in recent years to improve understanding of the illness.
But the chairman of Ipswich Dementia Action Alliance said: “We need more people who understand about dementia and are prepared to help and encourage, not be dismissive.
“Dementia is everyone’s problem. My passion is to make Ipswich a dementia-friendly town for people who whom daily activities that were once almost intuitive have become a challenge.
“There is more we could do to spread this message.”
Mr Fern was speaking at the Movement and Memories Exploring Perceptions of Dementia conference held at the University of Suffolk’s Waterfront building on Saturday, November 10.
The day-long event, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), was designed to show the difference the arts can make in supporting people living with the condition.
The number of older people living with dementia in Suffolk is expected to almost double over the next 15 years or so.
Mr Fern said more people needed to become “dementia friends”, where they receive training on how best to support someone with the condition.
“People like retailers need to make sure that their staff have been through the dementia friends programme,” he said.
“The point is that everyone is affected. Millions of people around the world live with dementia and there are 12,800 people in Suffolk, with 1,700 in Ipswich,
“When you look at places like Aldeburgh and Southwold, the percentage of the population with dementia is as high as anywhere.
“It shows no favour. Anyone is vulnerable.”
University of Suffolk research associate Katie Tyrrell, who helped organise Saturday’s event, said the organisation had embraced supporting people with dementia, because so many staff and students look after relatives affected by it.
“Because Suffolk has quite an ageing population, we feel that we should be helping the community and getting public engagement for something that is so important,” she said.
“Within communities, it’s really important to have activities and services that provide things for people who might not be able to access those things in the care setting.
“We need more services and provision to help that.”
The event was aimed at carers, practitioners, researchers, those living with dementia and members of public.
At the heart of the day was a performance by the internationally acclaimed physical theatre company Gecko, drawing on the experiences of those living with dementia and carers.