Dementiaville

Dementiaville aired on Channel 4 last night. If you haven’t seen it yet, please have a watch – the programme conjured up an array of emotions and, most importantly, it got the nation talking about dementia.
Statistically, it it likely that we all will know someone, most likely someone close to us, who has, or has had, dementia – one in six people over the age of 80 have dementia, and Alzheimer’s Society estimates that there are around 850,000 people in the UK with dementia right now.

By 2025, the number of people with dementia in the UK is set to reach one million. Personally, no close family members of mine have dementia. My Grandfather had Parkinson’s Disease and the Lewy Bodies Dementia that is linked to it. Lewy Body Dementia shares characteristics with both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

During last nights Dementiaville, we were introduced to Les Hadley, a 91 year old male with Vascular Dementia, who is convinced that his father is still alive and continually asks ‘where is my dad’. I remember when my Grandfather, who had began to shuffle by this point, would wander into the hallway asking where his toolbox was, and was in a total state of confusion when we told him that there was no toolbox and that he should sit down and have a cuppa.

It’s hard to imagine seeing the world through the eyes of someone living with dementia. What is quite clear when speaking to people with dementia, is that telling Les that his dad had died 40 years ago wouldn’t help. It would make him incredibly confused and could have the impact of ruining his day, then soon after he would be asking where his dad was again. That is the idea behind Dementiaville – where residents at Poppy Lodge care home will be transported back to a time that, in their mind, is the present day. It is in fact around 50 years ago.

A care facility in Holland has already put the idea of Dementiaville into practice, with a village for people with severe dementia. The hope is that it will improve the lives of these people by doing the things that they used to do before the disease took hold.

Whilst the care technique has been subject to criticism, it was clear during the Channel 4 programme that the residents responded well to the techniques. Craig Edser, activities co-ordinator at Poppy Lodge, presented as an incredible, caring human being who made a huge difference to the lives of the residents.

The usual image of a care home for people with dementia is a dreary one where residents are in front of a television all day. I know that if my grandfather were here today, I would be happy to try to dive into his world. We should be trying to ensure that people truly do live with dementia. If a person with dementia’s ‘life’ is in th 1940’s, then maybe we need to stop trying to pull them back into our world and make sure that their days with dementia are filled with happiness.

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