Unlocking Dementia play

Ali Rogan, our External Affairs Director, reviews a week of local and national thinking and doing around dementia.

This week we have been very lucky at Tunstall. Doncaster Community Arts (Darts) gave two performances of their play Unlocking Dementia which has been devised by speaking with people living with dementia, family members, GPs and other professionals.

The performers took us through several scenarios covering many aspects of dementia. Ron who was represented by a trilby hat, was portrayed at home, with his grandchildren, in the pub, at the hairdressers and out and about. This scenario however really got to me. Whilst sat on a bench, he had a visit from the police. The conversation went a little this like … “We’ve had reports of shouting and someone throwing bread about. Would you know anything about that sir? There are no ducks in the high street. Why are you in your pyjamas and slippers? Would you like me to help you home?” It really made you think twice about first impressions.

Another scenario demonstrated the potential difficulty of paying for shopping in the supermarket. The pressure of the queue, the stares, the lack of understanding by staff. Someone in the audience said it happened to them last week whilst out shopping with her mother in law. She wouldn’t accept any help and ended up handing over her full purse to the shop assistant. The fear and anxiety is massive.

But help is out there. For example a lady with dementia went to the shop every day to buy two pints of milk. By the end of the week, the son regularly discovered 14 pints of milk in the fridge. What could he do? Well, he discussed it with the local shop owner and came to an arrangement which enabled him to return the newly bought milk at the end of every day. Life continued as normal.

Whilst we have a long way to go, I read with great joy that Alzheimer’s Society has reached its target of 1 million Dementia Friends this weekend. We at Tunstall have reached around 250 Dementia Friends which is a good start, and our fellow Champions will continue the cause.

The other good news was the launch of the Department of Health’s PM’s challenge on dementia 2020 also launched at the weekend. The vision is to create a society by 2020 where every person with dementia, and their carers and families, from all backgrounds, walks of life and in all parts of the country – people of different ages, gender, sexual orientation, ability or ethnicity, receive high quality, compassionate care from diagnosis through to end of life care.

Our work with Alzheimer’s Society on Dementia Friendly Technology is referenced along with the desire for more work on awareness and research eg:

  • Page 43 under Promoting awareness and understanding, they would wish to see: A national simple to use and regularly updated online resource to enable people with dementia and carers to access assistive technology.
  • Page 48 under Research, they would wish to see: Research on assistive technologies and assisted living, including research on how information and communication technologies can best help people with dementia and carers.

Back to the play: it finished with a very poignant portrayal of a lady who described how she had battled dementia for years, had been wrongly diagnosed with depression, ignored, even laughed at when she couldn’t remember her date of birth. She was 42 when she got what she wanted – the correct diagnosis of dementia.

Find out more about Unlocking Dementia