Dementia: Understand Together Campaign

Fiona Foley tells us about the HSE’s new Dementia: Understand Together campaign. 

Dementia: Understand Together is a public support, awareness and information campaign aimed at inspiring people from all sections of society to stand together with the half a million people whose families have been affected by dementia. We want to inspire people, be it individuals, businesses, service providers or community groups, to take action and create communities where people with dementia and their families are respected, supported and connected.

Each year over 4,000 people in Ireland develop dementia – that’s over 11 people every day. Behind the numbers there are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, neighbours, colleagues and friends. All are living with a degenerative neurological condition that deeply affects their lives and the lives of people who care for them.

What is dementia?

Dementia is caused by a number of diseases that damage the nerve cells in the brain. Common symptoms may include

  • difficulties with thinking, language, and problem-solving;
  • difficulties in carrying out everyday tasks;
  • memory loss; and
  • changes in mood and behaviour.

When it comes to our well-being, other people matter.

There is a certain amount of fear and stigma that surrounds dementia and this can often prevent people from seeking help or telling people about their diagnosis. Fear and stigma can also mean that we stop meeting or talking to friends and neighbours who have been diagnosed with dementia. This can be hugely isolating for a person with dementia and their families and can lead to them being excluded from participating in community life.

It doesn’t have to be like this. These are simple actions we can take to be inclusive and supportive:

See the person, not the dementia

The diagnosis of dementia is life changing. But dementia is only one part of the person’s life. That is why it is important that you don’t lose sight of the person and who they fundamentally are, and don’t treat someone differently because of the diagnosis.

Talk about dementia

Communication is a powerful tool. You can raise awareness and engage people in conversations about dementia and this will help challenge stereotypes and negative attitudes. The more people know about the condition and how they can support a person with dementia and their family, the greater the impact will be.

Ask how you can help

Imagine what a day for a person with dementia and their family is like and how this simple question could transform it. Only by asking, will you find out how you can be of support. You may be surprised that it is the little things that make a big difference.

Stay in touch

Relationships are important to everyone in life. The same applies for those diagnosed with dementia and their families. Think about how you engaged before the diagnosis, and how you engage now. Your relationship does not need to end because a person has developed dementia.

Support the person to keep up hobbies and interests

Dementia does not mean someone must stop doing the things they love, but as time goes on they may need support to continue to do these things. Do not underestimate the difference you can make. Whatever the interest may be, having the choice to continue doing them can bring extra joy to life.

Make sure your space or service is easy to use

Put yourself in their shoes. See your service or space through the eyes of someone with dementia. This helps you understand the challenges a person with dementia may have when using services or accessing spaces. It may also change your attitude towards that person or what you do as a result.

One small action can make a big difference to the quality of life of people with dementia and their families.

Are you interested in getting involved?

You can join the many individuals, businesses and organisations already taking action to create understanding and inclusive communities where people with dementia and their families are respected, supported and connected.

Find out more about how you can take action and the supports available at http://www.understandtogether.ie/get-involved/

You can also contact Fiona Foley, Co-ordinator of Dementia: Understand Together in Communities, at fiona.foley1@hse.ie or 086 771 4892.

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