By Olivia Grist
A charity has been campaigning to make communities more dementia friendly.
Dementia is a condition which is associated with an ongoing decline of brain function and according to NHS Wales, one in twenty people over the age of 65 and one in five over the age of 80 are affected.
Based in Penarth, Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme is the biggest ever initiative to change people’s perceptions of dementia. It aims to transform the way the nation thinks, acts and talks about the condition.
Ingrid Patterson, the Dementia Communities Co-ordinator for the Vale and Cardiff says: “The Dementia Friendly scheme involves being provided with some resources produced by the Alzheimer’s Society and support provided by Marie Curie to create a simple action plan about how an organisation can become more accessible for people living with dementia and their carers.
“There’s also an opportunity to sign a pledge to those actions, where you’ll receive a certificate as a way of raising awareness locally.
“Small actions are still meaningful actions.”
Andy Woodhead, from Ogmore by Sea, has bravely opened up about the reality of living with dementia.
He said: “It’s made me less independent and is a condition that takes away quite a lot of your confidence.
“It’s an illness we call a journey, and where you are on the journey depends how the dementia affects you.”
The 64- year-old was first diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia in 2013, after an investigation for Parkinson’s disease due to a hand tremor.
A series of mini strokes has since led to the discovery that he also has vascular dementia, meaning his overall diagnosis has been amended to mixed dementia.
“Initially, it affected me quite seriously because you’re told you’ve got a terminal illness.
“I think everyone has to realise that dementia is now the number one killer in the UK,” he added.
But Andy says he feels like one of the lucky ones as his diagnoses was confirmed early on.
As well as the hand tremor and mini strokes (TIAs,) Andy also experiences hallucinations and phantom smells.
Andy relies on other people for support, so with coronavirus restrictions in place, it’s made things more difficult.
He said: “I’m a very social person, so before lockdown, I would volunteer and give public talks about dementia, but all of that stopped.
“I’ve lost many of my social skills, a huge degree of my self confidence and most worryingly, I feel like my dementia journey has sped up.”
But one thing that has helped Andy, is the Alzheimer’s Society’s Zoom social and consultive meetings.
“It’s not the same as getting out and seeing people, but it has helped open up the outside world again.”
Andy also added that the love and support from his friends, family and his community have also helped keep him going.
Whilst there doesn’t seem to be a definite end date to the COVID-19 pandemic, the vaccine has left Andy feeling more positive.
“My message to people now is to be patient, stay safe and get the vaccine if it’s offered to you.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel.”
For more information about dementia and how you can become more dementia friendly, visit www.dementiafriends.org.uk