Talk Report: 2018-07-11

Report on An Informative talk on Dementia by Claire Chettoe

Many of us know of a relation or friend who is living with Dementia, and as we grow older there can’t be one of us who does not worry that this strange and illusive condition might arrive in our own lives. On Wednesday 11th July Claire Chettoe came to give a better understanding of Dementia to members of Wells U3A.

The most common type of Dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Claire is a Dementia Friendly Champion for the Alzheimer’s Society, and a member of the Wells Dementia Action Alliance. With a series of simple analogies, examples and key messages she managed to give us a huge amount of information.

Asked of the words that ‘Alzheimer’s’ evoked the audience came up with ‘fear’ and ‘stigma.’ Claire explained that it is these very emotions that we must trying to dispel as we work to be a dementia friendly community. She gave us key facts to remember about dementia, which is not as she said, raising a laugh - just about losing our car in the supermarket carpark! We were given an analogy: we know our Christmas tree lights worked beautifully last year but this year we suddenly find that a bulb has gone here and there. This illustrates well how the pathways in the brain can become broken – apparently at random.

Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain: it is not a natural part of aging. Only 1 in 14 people over 65 are living with some form of dementia. We learned that Alzheimer’s and the other forms of dementia are not just about losing memory. We have to understand that dementia can affect how we live in all sorts of other ways: thinking, communicating, moving about and doing everyday things. Eating becomes difficult, inhibitions are sometimes disconcertingly discarded, vision is affected, sequencing too, and accurate judgement of distances becomes impossible. If we can understand all this, we can be kinder and more empathetic when we see a person struggling to close a purse, cross the road, tell the time, worry apparently unnecessarily about bus times. how to dress correctly or boil a kettle.

Nevertheless, it is possible to live well with Alzheimer’s. There is far more to a person than their dementia. How can we help friends, relations and strangers? It is good to try to understand who the person is, their character, what they did in life and the things that they might still like to think about and remember from their past. If we can learn to keep choices simple, to talk in short, clear sentences…to use out body language as well as words when we explain, then they can understand us better. We can encourage the person to do things with as much physical activity as possible. This can include simple activities around the home: practical things like labels on household items are enormous help with this.
These are just some of the practical ways that we can help and one of the most important things is just to try to understand. If we also remember and try to support the families and carers who look after those with dementia, then we can really feel that we are working towards making Wells a Dementia Friendly City.

Claire was thanked enthusiastically for an inspiring talk, which gave us a lot of positive things to think about and a much greater understanding of Dementia.