Let’s make Morpeth a Dementia Friendly Community

‘Let’s make Morpeth a Dementia Friendly Community’ was the message that Dementia Champion Guy Kirk recently delivered to the Lions Club of Morpeth.

The Club would normally meet on the second and third Tuesdays of each month; however to enable Guy to give a full presentation, an extra meeting was held for the benefit of members and partners.

Morpeth resident Guy started by explaining that he has a background of working in the Social Services sector and now is the local franchise holder for Home Instead South East Northumberland which provides support to enable older people to remain living independently in their own homes for as long as possible.  His staff, therefore, often support people living with dementia. It was partly because of this connection that he became a Dementia Champion for the Alzheimer’s Society delivering Dementia Friends information sessions that raise awareness about the condition. Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme is the biggest ever initiative to change people’s perceptions of dementia.

There are many forms of dementia – the most common being Alzheimer’s – and this has become the biggest health and social care challenge in the U.K.  Every 3 minutes someone is diagnosed with the condition and whilst this affects mainly older people (1 in 14 over 65 ; 1 in 4 over 80) there are 40,000 people with dementia in the country under the age of 65.  70% of people living  in care homes have dementia.

Guy proceeded to explain that as we age it is natural that we forget some things or find facts harder to recall.  When, however, this becomes a problem, it is often fear or the fear of stigma that prevents many people from approaching their Doctor.

A lot, however, can be done to alleviate the condition and give support both to those living with Dementia and their carers.  Patience, speaking clearly and more slowly, being friendly and sometimes taking a person to a quiet location can all help.  Guy explained that every action counts – even something small like being  more patient in a supermarket queues if the person in front of you  is acting in a confused manner or taking longer to process the cash transaction.  He recently gave presentations to the staff at Heighley Gate which resulted in an increase in staff becoming Dementia Friends.

Dementia Friends 2

Many of the Lions and their partners have ‘signed up’ to be Dementia Friends and this need only involve wearing a ‘forget me not’ badge.  In this way someone living with dementia or their carer might notice the badge and know that the badge wearer will have an understanding of dementia and may be able to offer support if needed.

A small committee has been formed in Morpeth with a view to making Morpeth a Dementia Friendly town. The initiative is called ‘Dementia Friendly Morpeth’ and aims to raise awareness about dementia, encourage people and businesses to become Dementia Friends and to think about small ways we can all help make our community friendly and accessible for people living with dementia.   This will, not only, enhance the town’s already welcoming image but also give support to all those living with dementia.  There will be a Public Meeting at Morpeth Town Hall on Thursday, September 20th starting at 6pm with refreshments served when the doors open at 5.30pm.  Anyone who wishes to learn more about ‘Dementia Friendly Morpeth’ will be very welcome.  If you cannot attend but wish to be involved, Guy can be contacted at work on 01670 338542 or by email at guy.kirk@homeinstead.co.uk .

Another local initiative is the Memory Café held every two weeks on a Thursday in Morpeth Methodist Church.  This is to help anyone living with dementia and their carers and they can be assured of a friendly welcome.

At the end of the wonderful presentation, Lion President Richard Nash said ‘Many thanks, Guy, for giving us this very informative talk in a way we could all understand.  As a Club we wish you and your committee every success in convincing shops and individuals towards making Morpeth a Dementia Friendly Community.  Hopefully we will be seeing an host of ‘Forget me not’ badges on display as we walk through the town’.

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