As a volunteer Dementia Friends Champion, I run sessions for the public and businesses to help raise awareness of dementia.
A small part of the session is based on the analogy of dementia and a set of Christmas fairy lights to explain fairly simply how dementia affects everyone differently.
Just before Christmas many people will get their fairy lights out of the loft or from the top of the wardrobe and spread them out on the floor to test them and make sure that all the bulbs are working properly prior to hanging them on the tree.
Some may be lit, others may not be working at all and some may flicker on and off. If you wiggle the flickering ones or the ones which are not lit, they may come on or may have failed completely.
If you imagine that the brain is a collection of thousands of fairy lights each representing a memory, a skill or a function of the brain. Now imagine that dementia is causing some of these lights to flicker, dim or switch off completely. For each person this will happen in a different order and different “lights” will be affected.
This, in a very simple way, helps explain how dementia can affect people in different ways. No two people have brain cells or, in our analogy, fairy lights, which work or are affected in the same way. In other words every individual is unique and how they experience the disease is also unique and can be affected by many factors.
The Alzheimer’s Society initiative was established to create Dementia Friends all over the country through information sessions and to promote five key things everyone should know about dementia which are that:
- Dementia is not a natural part of ageing
- Dementia is caused by brain diseases
- It’s not just about losing your memory
- It’s possible to live well with dementia
- There’s more to the person than the dementia.
Attending a Dementia Friends’ session then inspired me to see what else I could do to promote these messages and by becoming a Dementia Friends’ champion and having attended a one day training session I felt confident and enthusiastic enough to hold my own sessions to spread the word.
If you would like to attend a Dementia Friends’ Information Session go to www.dementiafriends.org.uk and click on “attend an information session” or you can click on “Watch our on-line video” after which you can easily become a Dementia Friend to help spread awareness of the disease.
Just to show how successful the initiative has been, when I held my first session in a local village hall in October 2015 there were 1,313,412 Dementia Friends. By the time I held a session in January 2016, there were 1,401,792 Fementia Friends. This initiative of The Alzheimer’s Society was to change people’s perception of and transform the way the nation thinks, talks and acts about the disease.
For more information about dementia go to www.alzheimers.org.uk or call the National Dementia Helpline on 0300 222 1122.