In the UK there are 850,000 people with dementia, and 40,000 of these are under the age of 65 suffering from early-onset dementia.
It is calculated that by 2051 the number of people who have dementia in the UK will rise to 2 million.
It is not just people with dementia who are affected, but their families, friends and carers.
This week is Dementia Action Week, which encourages people to do something to improve the lives of those affected by dementia, in order to create a dementia-friendly country where those with dementia do not feel excluded.
This is a tricky subject to tackle, one where the wrong approach could be seen as patronising or insensitive, which is why I am so impressed by the film from the charity Alzheimers Society.
What They Did
The idea behind the film is simple, and like all simple, brilliant ideas, is extremely effective.
Children are filmed having conversations with people with dementia, and the kids’ questions, and the adults’ answers, are uplifting as well as revealing.
For example, one child asks: “Do you sometimes do silly things?” and the reply is: “I put milk in the washing machine”. As someone who has put their keys in the fridge, this made me smile, but also appreciate what it is really like to have dementia.
The Big Idea
Most of us are affected by dementia.
I have had relatives with Alzheimer’s disease and a friend with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. I know, as probably you do too, how difficult it is to have a conversation with someone with memory problems, as the wrong question (for example, asking about what they did yesterday), can cause so much anxiety. So it is refreshing to see how easy it should be to chat with a person with memory issues.
At www.alzheimers.org.uk there is this advice from people with dementia about how they like to be spoken to:
‘Talk to me, smile, be a little patient and give me time to reply.’
'A simple “hello”, ask about the weather, anything that you feel comfortable with.’
'Just be yourself and yes, we will make mistakes but it’s ok to laugh along with us.’
'I love it when people ask me questions. It gives me an opportunity to show that people with dementia exist, that we can still contribute to things going on around us and that life goes on. It makes me feel good. It makes me feel like me again'
'Just don’t ask if I remember.’
'Don’t be afraid. All it takes is a conversation to see we’re still us.’
As a child I used to love spending time with my grandmother, we would laugh and laugh together, as somehow there was more of a connection with her than with any other adult.
This film reminds you of how well children communicate with older generations, they don’t bring the baggage with them that adults have, they are not worried in any way about the issues the elderly person has, they just communicate openly.
It is such a joy to see a film about people with dementia and feel uplifted afterwards, rather than depressed.
From the headline on the film: ‘All it takes is a conversation to see we’re still us’ to the laughter of the children and the adults throughout the video, I love everything about this.