Today is World Alzheimer’s Day. It’s held on September 21 each year, providing a great opportunity to talk about dementia, so we can try and reduce the stigma that still surrounds this incurable disease.
The more we know the more we’ll understand, so keeping dementia in our thoughts is very important.
That’s why I’m delighted to report a group of knitters from Thorne have helped Doncaster pass a new dementia awareness-raising milestone.
The ‘knit and natter’ group helped us break the 5,000 Dementia Friends barrier when they took part in an hour-long information session at their weekly meeting place at Thorne Library.
A Dementia Friend learns a little bit more about what it’s like to live with dementia, then turns that understanding into action. Anyone can become a Dementia Friend, a scheme developed by the Alzheimer’s Association.
The Thorne knitters have knitted ‘twiddlemuffs’ for dementia patients at Doncaster Royal Infirmary’s Mallard Ward. Their youngest member, Emily Pettinger, aged 10, is a pupil at Thorne Green Top School and was taught to knit by her mum Sue Wragg.
Twiddlemuffs have been found to help patients with dementia. They are knitted woollen bands to which items can be attached for the patient to ‘twiddle’ with.
I was also pleased to learn that the NHS’ national dementia care chief, Professor Alistair Burns, had praised the borough for recruiting 5,000 Dementia Friends when he came on a fact-finding visit to Doncaster.
Professor Burns said Dementia Friends are key to helping break down the stigma and misunderstanding that often surrounds dementia. He looks forward to seeing this number keep growing as we work towards achieving our ambition of becoming a dementia-friendly borough. NHS organisations like ours work with partners across the public, private and voluntary sectors to help create a culture of dementia friendliness in Doncaster. The most important measure is feedback from people who have dementia and their carers and families. We want them to be satisfied with, not just the health and social care services they use, but wider facilities, like transport, shops and businesses.
We have evidence the experience of people with dementia is getting better in Doncaster. This is partly due to the local Dementia Action Alliance, plus our 76 local Dementia Friends champions, who speak up for people with the disease.
Local patient satisfaction surveys are generating more compliments and fewer complaints when it comes to the care of people with dementia. It’s clear that organisations working together to provide support when it’s needed is key to helping Doncaster people live well with dementia.