“There are some 8,500 people living with dementia in Leeds, an estimate based on expert assessment of the research evidence, newly-published by the Alzheimers Society. Many more people – close family and friends – are in turn affected by the impact of the condition on loved ones”. This number is growing as we all live longer, and more families know someone who has dementia. Most of these people are looked after by family and friends – an enormous army of people doing a very difficult job.
It was National Dementia Carers Day at the weekend and here we talk to someone from the Dementia Friendly Leeds campaign, about what’s around in Leeds to support people. There’s also a very short film where Colin and Lillian from Leeds talk about what it’s like living with dementia.
Maggie Graham is manager for the Dementia Friendly Leeds campaign based at Leeds Older People’s Forum.
“In Leeds, there are thousands of informal carers of people with dementia – husbands, wives, sons, daughters, neighbours and friends, whose many quiet acts of compassion and kindness help loved ones live the best lives possible. National Dementia Carers Day on 14 September prompted us all to remember the unsung role of carers and to celebrate the amazing job they do, day in day out.
It made me think of all the carers, unpaid and paid supporters people I’ve met since taking up the post of campaign manager for Dementia Friendly Leeds earlier this year, as well as people with dementia, who’ve shown me how important it is for people to carry on living as valued citizens in their communities, and why we need a campaign to raise awareness and improve attitudes towards people living with a diagnosis. There are so many individuals, voluntary groups, statutory services and local companies providing valued support both at a personal level and in terms of the wider campaign.
Not least there is an army of volunteers giving up their spare time to spread a little sunshine and help people carry on with their lives. Dementia Friendly Rothwell is a great example of voluntary action – where families and friends run various groups including the Tea Cosy breakfast café which attracts over a hundred locals on the first Saturday of every month. It’s a joyful and practical way to show people they belong at the very centre of their community. There are scores of local dementia cafes, singing, arts, memory, support and social groups being run by staff and volunteers, as well as the individualised support offered by the Neighbourhood Networks, Peer Support Service, Leeds Memory Service and health health/social care services, other community groups and of course the Alzheimer’s Society, which also provides citywide help and support.
Dementia Friendly Communities are getting off the ground in other places too and enlisting the support of the wider community. Places like Beeston and Holbeck, Otley, and Chapel Allerton Good Neighbours, who gained a fantastic reception at the recent Chapel Allerton Festival a few weeks ago. Every month scores of people are training as Dementia Friends Champions and volunteering their time to deliver awareness sessions to hundreds more around the city alongside the professional training and awareness offered by the Alzheimer’s Society in Leeds. Local businesses are also joining the campaign and doing things to improve their welcome and services for people with dementia through the Dementia Action Alliance, indeed there are nearly 40 organisations (and growing) now officially supporting the campaign in Leeds alone.
Raising public awareness
Of all the people and organisations I’ve met, there’s one particular person who has probably helped me more than anyone. Lilian is a dedicated carer for her husband Colin, and a complete inspiration to anyone who cares for or about people with dementia. She has got the most positive attitude to life – ‘you’ve got to keep smiling!’ – which she brings both to her caring role and to promoting the needs of people with dementia through local radio and press. Lilian’s given me her permission to show you a recent short film she and Colin made about their lives, and we hope you can find a few moments to watch it here on youtube. “
For more information
Please do get in touch with: Maggie@opforum.org.uk or with any of the following if you would like more information or support:
Or for help and information from the Leeds branch of the Alzheimer’s Society please ring 0113 244 1697.