London Irish charity hopes to draw on experiences of sufferers and their families
Cricklewood-based charity Ashford Place is supporting ‘a groundbreaking’ scheme focused on helping those in Brent who suffer from dementia, writes Adam Shaw.
The Dementia Peer Support Service, which has been given a £90,000 grant by the NHS, seeks to challenge the established methods of dealing with memory loss. While the traditional approach is to offer support and guidance to dementia sufferers, this programme sees those who suffer with the illness taking the initiative in working with people in a similar situation.
Danny Maher, CEO of Ashford Place, explained that it revolves around encouraging those recently diagnosed to realise that there is no need for dramatic changes in their daily routine.
“It’s about helping the individual, despite the fact that they’ve been given a diagnosis of dementia. What we’re saying is, that’s not the end of your life,” he said. “Services in general, particularly ones relating to mental health, are about doing things for people. We’re saying ‘actually, you can do these things yourself ’ and we’ll just provide a bit of support.
“And if you’re fit and able to carry on as normal, then why wouldn’t you? Why would you just stop?”
A recent report examining the scale of dementia in Brent found that there were almost 2,000 people in the borough with some form of the condition. In 2014, more than £10 million was spent on nursing homes and residential care homes specialising in dementia in the borough.
Across the UK, there are more than 850,000 sufferers – a number set to rise to more than one million by 2021 – and it is the leading cause of death in England and Wales, costing the UK £26 billion a year. These figures demonstrated the need and potential for a service in which people living with dementia could help each other while retaining their self-esteem and sense of identity.
It was also clear that people lead happier and healthier lives when they have the resources that work for them. Those behind the project believe that this can be achieved through the peer programme as not only does it hand control back to the individual but it also creates an effective support network built up of people in the same boat.
“A similar example would be cancer support groups. Once you’re diagnosed with cancer, the hospital immediately sets you up with people who have been through the same thing,” Danny explained.
“Our peers can use their experience of receiving the diagnosis and suffering memory problems to help people in a similar situation.”
Dianne Campbell, one of the driving forces behind the service, added that it was an effective tool in getting people to open up about their condition. She explained how, having been diagnosed with dementia aged just 47, she wasn’t sure how to deal with the fallout. This new service, however, is the ideal way for her, and many others, to approach the issue in a positive, rewarding manner.
“It’s a shock to people when they are told they have Dementia. A lot of people don’t talk about it and it gets worse because it’s secret,” she said. “It’s like you’re having an affair that you don’t want people to know about. It’s not until you admit it to yourself that you can start to come to terms with it.
“Coming to the group and hearing other people talk helps people to open up. It also helps the carers who are trying to understand how to cope with their loved ones.
“The main benefit is for people to come together and mix. I think it’s a very good thing.”
The hope is that the service will also lead to freeing up hospital beds that are being used for dementia suffers. Those behind it feel that not only will it reduce the number of people going into hospital but that it will also lead to fewer visits to A&E by preventing accidents.
The pilot programme at Ashford Place will run until January 2018 and, following close evaluation, will potentially be broadened out so that more and more people can trial it in their areas.
The Dementia Peer Support Service will be launched at the Brent Civic Centre, Engineers Way, Wembley, HA9 0FJ, at 1pm on Wednesday 29 March.