Why you really should sign up to help Norwich in its bid to become a dementia-friendly city

Dementia Friends badge Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Dementia Friends badge Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

An ambitious bid is underway to officially make Norwich a dementia-friendly city. As part of this firms are being encouraged to free up their staff for awareness training. One of these is Archant and editor David Powles joined a session.

One-year-old Ivy Ames adds a message to a campaign billboard in London to encourage the Alzheimer's

One-year-old Ivy Ames adds a message to a campaign billboard in London to encourage the Alzheimer's Society's 'Building Dementia Friendly Communities' campaign. Photo credit should read: David Parry/PA - Credit: PA

The statistics tell you everything you need to know.

There are currently 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK. This will reach two million by 2051.

One in 14 people over the age of 65 is likely to develop dementia, one in six over the age of 80.

In Norfolk alone experts predict a 35pc increase in the next eight years of those living with it, from 14,000 now to 19,000 in 2025.


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It's one of those things which affects pretty much everyone, whether you live with the condition, your partner does or it impacts the lives of one of your relatives. There is no hiding place.

However, in spite of this, how many of us could truly say we understand what dementia is? How it impacts someone's life? And more importantly the best way to act around someone who has the condition?

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Much like mental health, it's something which all too readily we only really deal with, face up to or find out about when we really have to. When we're at crisis point.

But, again just like with mental health, there's an increasing drive to change that and encourage as many people as possible to learn about it, even if they do not feel directly impacted by it at this moment in time.

At the forefront of this push in this region are Age UK Norwich, which wants us to become one of the country's few Dementia-Friendly cities.

Norfolk and Suffolk already has a host of communities where work like this has been done on a smaller, but no less important, scale. The aim in this city is to identify and train 7,000 dementia friends by 2020.

One way of doing that is by making businesses pledge to sign up their staff and to provide them the necessary training.

Last week, myself and a dozen other Archant employees were joined at Prospect House (Age UK Norwich will make it as easy as possible by coming to you) by Marie Lucas,the charity's dementia development lead.

Over an extended lunch break (courses run from between an hour-and-a-half and two-hours-and-a-half), she took us through all sorts of facts and figures, stories and activities aimed at increasing understanding of the condition.

The over-arching ambition of the project is to change people's perception of dementia from negative to positive. To make people realise that you can have dementia but still lead a happy and fulfilling life.

You don't have to be regarded as a 'sufferer' and for what it's worth the use of that word when describing those living with dementia is something this newspaper pledges not to do.

That said, for those with dementia the world can at times be an intimidating place and the more people who are aware of the problems someone may have - the better life can be for them.

The most poignant part of the session is a five-minute video through the eyes of someone living with dementia and how, at times, just the simple task of day to day chores can be a challenge. That is especially the case if all you get off other people is strange and unhelpful looks.

In the first-half of the video the main female character attempts to get on the bus to the supermarket and home again, but faces a lack of understanding and sympathy wherever she turns,

The second half imagines a world where understanding of dementia is common place and so people recognise the hardships the lady is facing and want to help. The bus driver is friendly and attentive, a woman in the supermarket helps her through the shopping list when the character gets confused and by the end of it that day's tasks have been completed in a positive way.

It may take some time, but that's a community we should all strive to create.

* To find out more about becoming a Dementia Friend log onto dementiafriends.org.uk. For more on Age UK Norwich's scheme visit ageuk.org.uk/norwich/news--campaigns/free-dementia-training-/

The five key messages of being a Dementia Friend

1 - Dementia is not a natural part of ageing

2 - Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain

3 - Dementia is not just about losing your memory - it can affect thinking, communicating and doing everyday tasks

4 - It's possible to live well with dementia

5 - There's more to a person than dementia

Archant's dementia pledges

As official media partners of the campaign, Archant has committed to several pledges that will help make Norwich dementia-friendly.

Our three pledges are:

• Train 50 members of staff as 'Dementia Friends' within 12 months to ensure they can spread understanding of the condition.

• Spread knowledge and understanding about dementia through its newspapers and websites, helping to reduce fear and raise awareness that it is possible to live well with dementia.

• Review the language used in our newspapers and on our websites in the light of the Deep Guide, which offers guidance on language-use when referring to dementia.

As part of the scheme Age UK Norwich will hold four dementia awareness sessions throughout the year, starting in March at Prospect House.

The sessions will last for 90 minutes and take place during lunch hours. Archant has agreed to allow an extra 30 minutes for lunch for those volunteering their time to become a dementia friend. It is hoped these measures will help make both staff and readers of Archant's titles more aware of dementia.

OPINION - BY DAVID POWLES

I'm sure we've all done it…

You agree to something weeks or months in advance. Then when it comes along a little bit of you regrets the fact, because in the cold light of day you feel too stressed or too busy to take the time out to do it.

And if I'm 100pc honest I felt a little bit like that this week when having to take time out of the middle of the day for a course.

But I'm so glad I resisted the urge to put it off.

The session in question was the 90-minute Dementia Awareness training run by Age UK Norwich as part of its drive to turn us into a dementia-friendly city.

As reported this week Archant, along with around 30 other local firms, have signed up to a variety of pledges aimed at raising awareness about dementia and change the way people think, act and talk about it.

I wanted to use this opportunity to encourage others to find out about the scheme Age UK is running – and if need be encourage your employers to take it up.

Every firm involved can have their pledges tailored to suit their environment.

For instance, as well as pledging to sign up 50 people to take the course, we have agreed to support the campaign through our various media outlets, as well as ensure the language we use doesn't contribute towards an overly negative impression of dementia and the lives of those living with it.

Previously I may have written 'suffer' in that last line, but that is one word people are encouraged not to use.

That hour and a half taught me so much about the condition and how it impacts everyday lives.

More importantly I now feel more confident that should I find myself in a situation where someone with dementia is clearly lost or confused, I will feel more comfortable about how to help them and act around them. If you don't think you could say the same - perhaps you should sign up...

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