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  • 23rd November 2015 | By David Jolley

    Rose-Marie Droes from Holland began to encourage local people with dementia and their carers to come together and decide what they most needed, from the 1990s. Mostly they liked to have a meeting place and they set about finding resources which would work and that could be afforded. Having found this to be a useful and effective approach in 13 centres in Holland, she has been encouraging other countries to look at the model: http://www.meetingdem.eu/

    Italy, Poland and the UK are involved in the current project: our colleagues in Worcester are leading the UK component. The essence, as I understood it, requires an entrepreneurial approach to identify, mobilise and coordinate local strengths. The details of what will happen vary with locality: there is a postcode patchwork of brightness that fits, rather than an imposed/handed down uniformity from an all-knowing national or international source. Now isn’t that a good idea!

    Toby Williamson reported on a study of how far the Dementia Friendly Communities idea has been adopted – in England and in other European countries – perhaps not as widely as we have thought even here, and the take up elsewhere is sparse. Most initiatives depend upon local enthusiasts and there is little input from formal bodies so far. Toby’s work includes the Mental Health Foundation’s consideration of framing dementia as a disability rather than an illness http://mentalhealth.org.uk/content/assets/PDF/publications/dementia-rights-policy-discussion.pdf

    Seems to me that many disabilities are consequent of the effects of illness. For most of us it is the impairments and disabilities which cause us to notice something is wrong. Finding ways of coping despite them is what counts in the absence of treatment strategies which might counter the disease process itself. 

    This is why all these societal responses are so important in making life better for people with dementia and their families. Progress is being made and good practices shared.

    Today we checked with a small gathering of consultants, trainee psychiatrists and medical students: Who has read The First Year of the Goodmayes Psychiatric service for Old People? http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4098447

    Answer – 2/9 This is a shame – Let’s all do it now – even the abstract is worth it



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    16th November 2015 | By David Jolley

    Caroline Sutcliffe and I were part of a parallel session which took aEuropean view. To be honest I have not given a lot of time to the international field: I did once go to Holland and saw their enormous Nursing Homes and on another occasion followed, bewildered, in a group which visited Sweden and Denmark. We met lovely people who were developing services for older people with dementia and other mental disorders and there was real sense of shared mission.

    Over the past three years I have been privileged to share with colleagues in Manchester in an eight country study looking at current services and profiles of people with dementia cared for at home but on the cusp of breakdown, or recently admitted to a care home when life in the community was found to be too difficult. Caroline presented an overview of the study and its findings: http://sites.nursing.manchester.ac.uk/pssru/research/ServiceArrangementsandIntegration/RightTimePlaceCare/

    Social circumstances of people at home were quite different country by country, with a South to North drift away from living within multi-generational households (Spain) toward living alone or with a husband or wife (Finland). Arrangement of services and who provides what are also different. Never-the-less the characteristics predicting breakdown were consistent across countries: living alone, being very old, having more severe cognitive loss and more impaired abilities for self-care were all associated with breakdown, as was the presence and intensity of non-cognitive symptoms. Stress on the main carer, either directly from their involvement with the individual with dementia, or from a combination of responsibilities, was also a powerful contributor to moving into care. Amongst those people moving into care during the follow up within the study, measures of non-cognitive dysfunction were reduced once they had moved as were measures of carer stress.

    So I would say there is quite a lot within this that says we should view admission to care as a more positive option within the spectrum of services, than is currently fashionable.

    The most significant news of the week has been the death of Peter Ashley. He was a charismatic figure:  massive and unbowed by his diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia. He was pleased to have the diagnosis as an explanation of symptoms he had not understood. He devoted his last years to making it clear that people with dementia are PEOPLE. They have knowledge, views and can make practical suggestions which are beyond those which professionals might offer. Famously he refused to sit in God’s waiting room to die:  

    ‘I am living with dementia, not dying of dementia.’ 

    That is not to say that dementia is not a terminal illness, it is, but the years of life with it are to be lived to full effect and enjoyment. As I understand it, Peter did not die of dementia but of another terminal illness, with dementia. I guess that will cause him to smile in reflection.

    He has been a hero and made a large contribution to bringing dementia out of the shadows and to counter the fears and stigma which have been associated with it. We will remember him with gratitude.



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    4th November 2015 | By David Jolley

    Could it really be ten years since the launch at Bournemouth? Sue Benson is unchanged as Mary Poppins, Richard Hawkins is steady as a star to steer by. Every year brings new ideas, new hope and new revelations. By the end of this first morning I was full and pleased to know I must use all this.
    The drive down from Altrincham via the M6 and M54 was good preparation. Although I know Wolverhampton like the back of my hand, I have never known Telford so was a little fearful of how to get there and what I would find. Traffic flowed well. Signs were there as advertised and a friendly man in yellow corrected my last gasp diversion from the true line. Easy parking. Light rain and mist set this as an autumn adventure
    The Early Bird blew me away – I knew the Tameside presentation from Ursula Humphreys – a Public Health doctor leading a surge on Arts for Dementia – would be magical. It is my privilege to be near to Ursula and her transforming crew via involvement with Willow Wood Hospice and our regular Dementia Network meetings. But Mosely Hall Hospital matched that with its exploration of Life Story and the production of a play based in true stories, mixed with a composition of a couple reflecting on life: ‘All of me’. 500mpeople came to see it and 500 people loved it.
    But more even than these I was carried to new understanding and new determination by Veronica Franklin Gould: Music Reawakening: http://www.arts4dementia.org.uk/reawakening-the-mind-report Did she sing it? She did not – but her presentation had the lifting power of music, blowing away any irritating thoughts of red tape and burdensome routines: here is how life is taken to new heights – for mere mortals with or without dementia. We must share this as the very best of gifts to those in need and those whose lives will be richer for it
    Overwhelmed/Gone by 9.30am!
    Disappointment then that the Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Public Health was required to stay to vote in Westminster and could only offer a pre-recorded rehearsal of statistical claims of achievement. Unlike her predecessor Norman Lamb she would not see or hear the exquisite contributions from people with dementia and from carers:
     ‘Going to the memory clinic was awful – the consultant did not stay to give me the diagnosis or to explain the condition. His fist communication to me as he passed me on his way out, was to say ‘You should get on and write a will now while you can’.
    Or – ‘It took weeks of tests and examinations – then this lady doctor who I had not seen before simply said: ‘You’ve got Alzheimer’s disease. I will write a prescription and we will see you in six months’ time’
    So much for making the diagnosis well!
    ‘I have dementia. I don’t suffer from it’
    ‘We need more hospices’
    ‘I can keep to the script with the help of my Ipad - Without its direction I stray to other things such as ‘Strictly’
    ‘The Occupational Therapist was wrong footed – She had never met someone with dementia still in full time employment’
    Let us hope that Jane Ellison knows a bit of what she was missing from that plenary session.
    People are asked to send her short statements: ‘The Minister should know…………….’ The Alzheimer’s society will forward them
    There is more to say about this wonderful day

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