Stop Press: Alzheimer’s Society announced on Tuesday (27th) that a staggering two million people have united against dementia by becoming Dementia Friends. Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends initiative was launched in 2013 to tackle the stigma that often results in people with dementia losing friends and being socially isolated.  Since then it has been transforming the way people act, think and talk about the condition in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. You can read more about the milestone reached by the Alzheimer’s Society and the Dementia Friend scheme here.

This week is Dementia Awareness Week. Two members of the Thompson Smith and Puxon Wills and Estates team are Dementia Friends, Sarah White, Associate Solicitor in the Clacton-based Wills and Estates team and Pragna Chhagan, Wills and Estates Solicitor based at the Colchester office.

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause of dementia. With dementia now being the leading cause of death in the UK and with numbers set to increase, it is now more important than ever to unite against dementia. In addition, there are now more people than ever living daily with dementia and whilst sometimes there are ways to slow down dementia there is still no known cure.

The intention of the Dementia Friend scheme is for people to learn more about dementia and the ways in which they can help others and thereby create a more dementia friendly community. Dementia Friends do not have to commit any particular time to the scheme, but the actions of a Dementia Friend could for example include visiting a person they know with dementia or telling people in the community about the scheme.

Here, Sarah White, talks about a “Virtual Dementia Tour” that members of the team recently experienced and her role as a Dementia Friend. Last year I and my colleagues in the Wills and Estates team undertook the Virtual Dementia Tour. Training2Care who provide the training in the UK say that “By walking in the shoes of a person with dementia, we can start to understand the issues that they experience every day. You will experience being confused, isolated, lost, intimidated, vulnerable and much more and therefore understand what you need to change to improve quality of care.” During the tour we were given an insight into  the physical and perceptional challenges that a person with dementia faces by using sensory tools and through instruction from trainers. Before undertaking the tour I believed that people suffering with dementia were often in their own world and I had no idea of the extent of a person’s frustrations or feelings of isolation nor did I appreciate the impact a sufferer’s environment has on them.  Whilst I found the Virtual Dementia tour distressing at times and emotional, I have no regrets about undertaking the training and can honestly say that it has completely changed my understanding of the way people with dementia feel.

The tour was inspirational to me and my colleagues and has changed the way we care for and provide assistance to our clients. The tour has given us the skills we need to make adjustments for our clients to ensure they feel as comfortable as possible when using our services. The experience has improved our communication with clients and often small differences such as talking slower to our clients, or allowing clients to see our lips moving so that they can read them can make such a huge difference to a client who has dementia. We offer a number of services to our clients to assist them in planning for their futures such as Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney and we are able to visit clients in their own home or care home if this will make them feel more at ease.

In my role as a Dementia Friend I would ask you to consider the various ways to unite against dementia, whether this is by becoming a Dementia Friend yourself (you can sign up at www.dementiafriends.org.uk), uniting with the Alzheimer’s Society to call on the next government to fix care for those living with dementia today and in the future, make a donation to support the work of the Alzheimer’s Society or participate in their various fundraising activities such as the upcoming Cupcake Day on 15 June.

For more information on the Virtual Dementia Tour that the team experienced click here. You can find out more about the Alzheimer’s Society here and more about Cupcake Day here.

Sarah advises on Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney, Estate Administration (Probate) and Lifetime Planning. She can be contacted on 01255 254265 or by email at sarah.white@tsplegal.com