Dementia Action Week runs from 16 to 22 May. The annual event, inspired by the Alzheimer’s Society, aims to raise awareness and encourage people to act on dementia. The theme this year is diagnosis.
It is not surprising that stigma and fear are a common barrier to people seeking diagnosis and support when worried about memory loss. Others simply dismiss it as a part of getting old. It is vital to work at breaking down these barriers. Getting an early diagnosis means a person’s needs can be identified. This in turn means they can be supported to live as well as possible with their dementia.
Community support is important too, so that people feel safe and connected in their neighbourhoods. The COVID-19 pandemic made this very difficult for many people and their carers due to reduced contact and social isolation.
Dementia Action Week sees a series of activities on offer throughout the county, from memory loss clinics at GP surgeries, to community events hosted by specialist organisations such as the Sensory Trust. Keep an eye on social media for an event near you.
Healthwatch Cornwall have launched a survey, in collaboration with Cornwall Memory Café Network and partners from the health and care system, to gather feedback from carers of people living with dementia. This research will help to shape the future of dementia services in Cornwall.
The Cornwall Dementia Conference
Set to be the biggest of these is the Cornwall Dementia Conference, being held on Thursday 19 May at the Atlantic Hotel in Newquay. The whole day will be live-streamed online courtesy of CHAOS TV.
The programme of experts taking part reads more like an arts festival line-up than a conference agenda. And that’s because the event is focussed on creative, non-medical means of support.
The huge benefits of music for people living with dementia have long been recognised. This showcase expands on that, focussing on opportunities for arts-based activities that will help people with dementia and their carers.
Guests include the acclaimed Haylo Theatre. Their work in the health and social care sector uses unique theatre-led activities to enable insights and conversations about difficult subjects which affect many people’s lives. Plymouth-based Memory Matters will explore the power of cognitive stimulation therapy in helping loved ones to stay mentally active. Musica hail from Dorset and their work is about using music in daily dementia care, to improve quality of life by decreasing agitation and improving wellbeing.
Delegates will be able to choose from 4 creative workshops in the afternoon. These activity sessions are being hosted by Cascade Theatre, the Sensory Trust, Art for Dementia, and University of Plymouth’s EPIC project who will bring along some very novel companion pets.
Amanda Thompson, ESF curriculum developer for REACH Cornwall said: “As a planning team, we decided early on that this was going to be a conference with a difference! We wanted the delegates to leave at the end of the day with a sense of wellbeing and optimism. We wanted to ensure the content was different, upbeat and interesting. We settled on creativity for dementia care as our overall theme. The keynote speakers and workshop leads have a wealth of knowledge and experience in this field and we feel so fortunate to have them taking part.”
The planning team were also keen to deliver a green event, one that considered sustainability at every stage of development. As part of this, the flyer for delegates is printed on paper impregnated with flower meadow seeds, so it can be planted afterwards. And the name badges are plastic-free.
The conference is hosted by Truro and Penwith College’s REACH Cornwall project (part of ESF Business Clusters, which is part-funded by the European Social Fund). The importance of staff education and training is not overlooked. The event will serve as a platform for launching the dementia core skills education and training framework.
This document was developed at national level to provide standardised training for dementia care across the UK. It has since been used by professional experts from healthcare trusts across Cornwall, who have worked together to provide a free education programme for all staff who look after and support people with dementia in health and community care settings across the county.
Dr Allison Hibbert is a GP specialising in older adults. She is NHS Kernow’s clinical lead for dementia in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, and chair of the Dementia Partnership Board. Dr Hibbert said: “Dementia has been named as a key priority for the health and care system in Cornwall. The estimated prevalence has nearly doubled in 10 years and is set to rise further.
“We are passionate about helping people to live as well as possible with dementia, and we want to make dementia everyone’s business. If you are concerned about memory loss, or are not sure that you have been given a diagnosis, please speak to your GP. Early diagnosis and having the right support can make such a difference.
“I am proud of the work we are doing to raise awareness and upskill our workforce. This will do much to help ensure that people get a timely diagnosis so we can provide the best support for their needs. It’s important to focus on the things that people can do and still enjoy rather than the things they can’t. That’s why I’m excited that we have created this vibrant showcase of creative support to help people living with dementia and their carers.”
Sign-up for the Cornwall Dementia Conference
Registration for the Cornwall dementia conference live stream event is free and stays open until 3pm on 19 May. Sign-up for the conference.