Community

Dementia Friendly Charlbury

Dementia Friendly Charlbury is a group of volunteers who want Charlbury to be a friendly and welcoming place for everyone to live, especially people with memory and thinking problems.

As we know, the number of older people In Oxfordshire is growing significantly, especially in the rural areas like West Oxfordshire. That means that there will be more people with memory and thinking problems who need support so they can remain included as part of the community.

Too often such problems lead to physical and emotional isolation. Our vision is for a community in which residents, businesses and organisations are supportive to people with memory and thinking problems so that affected people, families and carers are able to live well in our town.

The Dementia Friendly Charlbury group has carried out a quick survey via key locations in the town inviting people with memory problems and/or people who are caring for them to help us find out what is needed. We have had a limited response which indicated that most people are satisfied with the facilities and help available to them but which did suggest that somewhere to meet people in similar circumstances would be appreciated.

We are running a series of articles in the Charlbury Chronicle about dementia and what it means for individuals and families affected by memory problems. These are re-printed below.

If you have any comments or concerns to pass on to the Dementia Friendly Charlbury group -- or if you would like to join us -- you can contact us via Sue Smith on 01608 811007 or Meryl Smith on 01608 810192, or via our new email address charlburydf@gmail.com.

The following resources may be helpful:

Age UK
Website: www.ageuk.org.uk/oxfordshire
Dementia Information Line: 0345 450 1276
Dementia Web
Website: www.dementiaweboxfordshire.org.uk
Information Line: 0844 887 0005
24 h. Helpline: 0845 120 4048

What is dementia?

By Jeannie Pyle, Alzheimer's Society Services Manager for Oxfordshire.

Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain and can affect anyone. As the brain shuts down a person gradually loses the ability to do the things many of us take for granted from enjoying conversations with family and friends or to eating and dressing without help. But, for a person with dementia these can be every day challenges. Symptoms of dementia include loss of memory, confusion and problems with speech and understanding.

There will be 850,000 people with dementia in the UK by 2015 and this number is forecast to increase to more than one million by 2025 (Dementia UK: Second edition, 2014).

One third of people with dementia live in a care home and two thirds of people with dementia live in the community. We can help people to live well with dementia by being aware of the condition. You can learn about the condition and become a Dementia Friend at one of Alzheimer's Society's 45-minute interactive sessions. Dementia Friends is about giving more people an understanding of dementia and the small things that could make a difference to people living in their community. Or you can embrace a Dementia Friendly Community to enable people to live well with dementia in your area and improve the inclusionand quality of life for people living with dementia.

We all have moments when we feel the need to escape, get away from it all, exercise and enjoy the fresh air. People with dementia may also feel the need to enjoy being outside or walking for another purpose that they need to fulfil. Some people become concerned as to how to offer support to someone who has become lost. Many people with dementia have a fragile sense of self-worth and treating them with courtesy and privacy is key no matter how advanced their dementia is.

Kindness and tone of voice should be reassuring to the person without talking down to them. Whatever the detail of what they are saying, the person is usually trying to communicate how they feel. Each person with dementia is unique and reacts to the experience of dementia in their own way and it helps if we respond flexibly and sensitively.

Getting to know who the person is and where they live may be difficult with a person who finds these basic things difficult to remember. Listening and showing the person that you are there for them and offering to do things with the person rather than for them should provide reassurance and a friendly smile goes a long way to putting people at ease. People should be patient and communicate clearly, using gestures and props to help, or find a quiet place to go where appropriate. Be guided by the person and don't make assumptions about what someone may want or need.

There may be someone who is out looking for the person with dementia or it may be that someone else may need to be contacted in order for the person with dementia to be able to return home. Being a Dementia Friend and talking about dementia helps in supporting those affected by dementia and we hope that, gradually, stigma will be reduced.

My Father has Dementia

They say once a man and twice a child and in my father's case that's exactly how it is.It is unbelievably cruel to watch someone you love be whittled away by this disease.

My father was a Civil Engineer and worked for Mobil Oil for all of his working life. He retired in 1994 and often laughed as he said 'I don't know when I found the time to work'. My parents' retirement years were good years: golfing, having amazing holidays, entertaining and being with really good friends and of course enjoying the grandchildren.

As a family in 2007 we suffered some really hard times between things that went wrong for me and then my brother's death, and looking back that was the start of my father's deterioration and who knows if the shock suffered over that dreadful year caused the on-set of his Dementia.

We initially noticed my Father's loss of memory and repeating himself and not being able to find the correct word when speaking but it was the sleeping that was a real concern and on awakening was quite disoriented. My Mother stopped him from driving about 2 years ago when they were medically informed that is was Dementia and my Mother from that point took over all financial, household responsibilities and became his primary carer.

It has been a very difficult and emotional time as a family watching one of the loveliest, most honest and hardworking persons deteriorate day by day. My parents regularly come for a Sunday Roast and a year ago my Father would plate up his meal, often enjoying the chicken leg. Now my daughter will dish up his meal and cut it up and more often than not she will either put the food onto his fork or feed him.

As a Carer day to day we have to watch my Mother aid my father out of bed, help him wash, clean his teeth and dress and he is now incontinent, so she has a huge amount of washing. She will often sit down for breakfast or supper alone as Father has either fallen asleep or is not hungry. Everything in the house is put away otherwise she will find tea and coffee in the kettle or cheese and milk in cupboards, so she has to have her wits about her constantly. We help where we can: my daughter will visit on a weekend and help to shave and wash her Grandfather and loves to make him a cup of tea and sneak him some chocolate biscuits. My sons will help in their Grandparents garden or do odd jobs around the house and will take their Grandfather out for a pint on occasion.

The house is now secure and has an alarm on the front door, as on a couple of occasions Father has managed to get out the house and we had the whole family looking for him around Charlbury as well as people out walking and cycling and police cars and even a police helicopter. Eventually he was found in the neighbour's house two doors up. We can laugh now but at the time I remember the worry and panic I felt at the time as he is so vulnerable.

My Mother can never relax from physically looking after him but also from the sadness watching him shuffle about the house and talking nonsense repeatedly all day every day. I know sometimes she will phone us as she thinks she is about to lose her mind just listening to it but it's the loneliness she feels that is so very hard and she mourns the loss of the man he used to be.

The only times my Mother gets some respite is one day a week when my Father goes to Middleton Grange in Hailey for the day. The tragedy is that when my daughter and I pick him up in the evening you also see the nature of the home and it becomes very apparent the man he will very quickly become and it breaks your heart as for us this experience wouldn't hurt so much if he hadn't have been the man he was and as a wife, son, daughter, grandson and granddaughter we suffer now but we are grateful for the love we had and we let him know all the time how much he is loved.

Last updated: Tue 13 Oct 2015

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