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Being Dementia friendly

Think you know about dementia? Here are five things you might not know:

  • Dementia is not a natural part of the ageing process.
  • Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain.
  • It is not just about losing your memory.
  • It’s possible to live well with it.
  • There is more to the person than the dementia.

Dementia Friends Information Session

And they are exactly the type of things you can learn on a Dementia Friends information session, which gives people a basic understanding of the condition, its symptoms and how it impacts on behaviour. Dementia Friends is an Alzheimer’s Society initiative, and information sessions are taking place on a daily basis around the country, including the one at Virgin Lounge in Norwich, recently, hosted by Mark Johnston of Home Instead Senior Care in Norwich Home Instead Senior Care in Norwich.

We learnt, for example, that one common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which usually starts by affecting people’s short term memory; and that one in 14 people over 65 has dementia at any one time.

Vision not memory

Mark explained that some people with dementia may encounter problems with their sight (and, in some cases, this includes having hallucinations). ‘One of the biggest things is vision,’ says Mark. The author Terry Pratchett, for example, had a type of dementia which affected vision rather than memory, although vision and perception can be affected by other types of dementia, too. ‘Busy’ patterns on walls or floors can look like they’re moving and changes in floor patterns or surfaces may be seen as an obstacle or barrier and the person may avoid walking in these areas. And shiny surfaces can look like water.

blankHow to make things better

During the session, Mark made it clear that there are plenty of small things we can all do to make a big difference. Luncheon clubs, for example, could use plain table cloths and contrasting white plates (a red plate on a white tablecloth is easier to see than a white plate).

Restaurants could put up dementia friendly toilet signs on the way in as well as the way out of the toilets (people may be able to follow the signs to go in – but not remember which door they came in by, so a simple way out sign on that internal door could help). Mark believes there are a couple of restaurants in Norwich which have such signs. Clearly marked glass doors are also helpful – the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell, for example, has clearly marked glass doors.

And there are a number of small techniques which can help someone living with dementia live at home. Mark suggests putting a picture of their bedroom on their bedroom door, and even a picture of cups and saucers on a cupboard door. ‘Doing simple things like that can make a really big difference,’ says Mark.

And he stresses the importance of recording information about the life of a person with dementia: ‘Put a life story together so you know the person. The more you know about people the better.’

Get Involved

At the end of a Dementia Friends information session participants are encouraged to register with the Alzheimer’s Society. The initiative is all about turning understanding into action, so pledges can involve getting in touch (or staying in touch) with someone you know living with dementia; volunteering for an organisation that helps such people; signing up to Alzheimer’s Society’s campaigns to improve the lives of people with dementia; wearing the special Dementia Friends badge; and telling five friends about the initiative; and carrying out a personal action of your choice.

‘With Dementia Friends, what we encourage people to do is think of something and make a pledge,’ says Mark. It can be as simple as ask someone who looks lost in the supermarket if they are OK.’ Ultimately, he says: ‘It’s about friendly communities.’

  • Search for your nearest free Dementia Friends Information Session by visiting
  • Home Instead Senior Care also offers free dementia training workshops, for family carers and those who come into contact with people living with dementia through their work. The next session runs from 10am to 2.30pm on Thursday June 8, in a suite at Diamond House, Vulcan Road North, in Norwich. For more information or to reserve a place please contact Mark Johnston at or call 07828 642628.

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