This Dementia Awareness Week, 14-20 May, the theme is to unite against dementia. There are estimated 8,500 people living with dementia in Leeds: but many families are facing it alone. By uniting, we can raise awareness, offer help and understanding and improve care.
Ruth Brooks, Dementia Coordinator for ‘The Living Project’ at the Leeds Jewish Welfare Board, chats about her job and the support offered to people living with dementia and their families.
So Ruth, tells us more about your job?
In a nutshell, I do what it says on the tin. I work with my clients to try and ensure they LIVE with dementia, not live with DEMENTIA. Together, my clients and I set targets, and how we can make changes which improve their lives. Usually this is focussed on increasing confidence, supporting their independence, reducing isolation, and improving physical/mental wellbeing.
The word ‘dementia’ can often strike fear into the heads of those who hear it, but does it really have to be like that? Recently I attended a conference and one of the other delegates was a gentleman in his 80’s, with a diagnosis of dementia. It was amazing to hear that for him that a diagnosis of dementia was not the beginning of the end; but the start of a new chapter in which he is spending his time campaigning for human rights of those living with dementia.
I think this anecdote proves perfectly that dementia support is not ‘one size fits all’. If someone has hated an activity throughout their life, there is no reason that a diagnosis of dementia should change this – unless they actively say they would like to pursue new avenues. By spending time really listening to someone, and what their life has entailed, then working collaboratively with the client to problem solve, this is truly where we can make a difference. This is why we made the decision to include a steering group as part of the project, to make sure that we are including the ideas of our clients who are living with dementia, their carers and professional. We see no reason in ploughing ahead with a concept, and then being told that it is not right for our clients, or community.
What happens at the Living Project?
We want to acknowledge how difficult the diagnosis of dementia is for families and carers. From personal experience I know that this can be a difficult time, and a time where it can feel like a bereavement, when names or times together fall from the ‘dementia bookcase’. So we are happy to provide tailored 1:1 support to carers, with the hope to improve their own wellbeing – which in the long run will also benefit their loved one.
Looking towards the future we are also exploring options for counselling for individuals and their families following diagnosis, to assist all involved to embrace this next chapter, and the individual with the diagnosis to LIVE with dementia.
How can people get help?
If you are living with dementia or memory loss, or caring for someone who is in the North Leeds area and feel you may need some more support please get in touch. You can call 07590 862 509 or email firstname.lastname@example.org in confidence and we can journey this next chapter together.
So what’s happening during Dementia Awareness week ?
We are holding a number of free events which are open to all, though booking is essential! Oh, and don’t worry there will be plenty of tea and cake!
First off, we have the M&S Archive coming on the Monday 15th May (11am – 12 noon). They will be running a session to show us various artefacts from the history of Marks & Spencer’s and take us on a journey back in time.
Next there will be an M&S Themed art session run by a professional artist on Monday 15th May (2-4pm).
On Tuesday 16th May (2-4pm) we will then be joined by students from Leeds Beckett students union who will be starting conversations with the attendees with the use of books and pictures to learn more about a bygone era.
Finally, on Thursday 18th May (2-3pm) I will take of my LJWB hat, and put on my Alzheimer’s Society one onto run a Dementia Friends Information session.
If you would like some more information or to book a place on these events please ring me on: 07590 862 509 or email email@example.com. Please note, booking is essential! All events are taking place at MAZCC, 311 Stonegate Road, Leeds, LS17 6AZ.
Here are some other activities and events taking place in Leeds during the week, so everyone can join in.