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Personal stories make powerful impact at Dementia conference

Professor_Alistair_Burns.jpgThe third Surrey Dementia conference was held the week before last at Dorking Halls, chaired by our Chief Executive, Jane Thornton.

Marking progress on the local Dementia and Older People’s Mental Health joint commissioning strategy, the conference showcased some great examples of partnership working on key priority areas. The impressive examples were, however, completely outshone by the range of personal stories that were shared during the day and an uplifting singing treat from the Anchor Choir, many of whom are living with dementia.

Professor Alistair Burns, National Clinical Director for Dementia, Department of Health, highlighted just how much has happened nationally in the last five years with dementia awareness currently at its highest ever. However, he said that awareness now needs to be turned into action. Diagnosis levels are still a concern but he said post diagnostic support was the real key to making a difference to individuals and their families. The use of anti-psychotic drugs has reduced by 52% since 2009.

Professor Burns also stated that dementia needed to be recast as a long term condition treated in primary care rather than part of older people’s mental health services. As he said, ‘dementia rarely travels alone’. And he reinforced the need for preventative programmes particularly keeping people physically active, mentally stimulated and having a good diet, and better end of life care. Professor Burns remarked how great it was to see such good information and support in Surrey.

Attendees listened to personal stories from; Margaret Stevenson, who has been a carer to her husband, Michael, for ten years. She believes it’s harder caring for  a spouse or partner as there’s such emotional stress around the change of that relationship built over a lifetime - for them, over sixty years - and then ‘dementia pushed the self destruct button on our lives’; Pippa Stanley and her husband Bob spoke of how she deals with her early onset dementia but feels cheated on all the plans they had which they now need to rethink; Lizzie Rendell talked about how a GPS tracker telecare device helps her dad Bob continue to cycle which is his passion, giving peace of mind to their family. Bob had once been missing 30 hours when out cycling. 

Attendees, who were drawn from health, social care and the voluntary sector, took part in table top discussions on the sustainability of Dementia Friendly Surrey, attracting more residents to telecare and how wellbeing centres could develop further in local areas.

Action for Carers Surrey is a Dementia Friendly Surrey Champion. For more information, and to find out how you too can contribute, please click here

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