Guest blog by Heather Penwarden, President of Awliscombe WI and Vice- Chairman of DFWI’s International and Public Affairs Committee, as well as an Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Champion
On Friday 16th May, as part of National Dementia Awareness Week, Devon Federation of WI’s held a “Memory Matters” day in Exeter with Angela Rippon as the key note speaker. The event attracted 150 WI members representing 50 WIs from around the county.
I have wanted to do something like this for a while and I am absolutely delighted with the response from our members. With one in three of us likely to know someone who has dementia this is an issue that our society cannot afford to ignore. Raising the levels of awareness of what it is like to live with dementia is key to changing negative attitudes towards the disease and to inspiring people to act positively to take action and make a difference.
Devon is predominately a rural community where social isolation can be a big problem particularly if you are living with dementia. With 240 Institutes and over 7000 members DFWI is right in the heart of nearly every village in the county. Who is in a better place to spread the word about dementia awareness? If all 7000 members take just once action after today what an amazing difference that will make.
The day started with Dr Stephen Pearson, Consultant Psychiatrist and South West Peninsula Research, explaining about the different sorts of dementia, followed by presentations from people who are already making a difference to the lives of those living with dementia in Devon.
David Light cared for his wife throughout the progression of her dementia, and from his own experiences of feeling uninformed and isolated as a carer he has gone on to take the lead in setting up over 40 memory cafes in Devon. Rachel Johnstone talked about the valuable work she is doing in linking Sidmouth Memory café and students at the local community college; and Norman McNamara spoke of his experience living with Lewy Body dementia and of his amazing work with the Torbay Dementia Action Alliance.
Angela Rippon took the floor in the afternoon, and spoke with great passion of her work as co-chair of the Prime Minister’s Dementia friendly Group and Ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society. Angela then led a lively and enthusiastic debate on “what members of the DFWI can do to make a difference to the lives of people living with dementia.”
Members pledged to do the following:
Learn a bit more about what it is like to live with dementia
Become an Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friend
Seek out a Dementia Friends Awareness Session
Invite a Dementia Champion to come and lead a session at our WI
Volunteer at our local Memory Café
WI’s to adopt a Memory Café and offer support – time, skills and fundraising
If there is no local Memory Café set one up perhaps by joining forces with your local Rotary Club
Offer to volunteer at local hospital or care home
Do as you would be done by – treat everyone with equal respect
See the person and not the dementia
Make up your own memory book and memory box
Help someone else make a memory book and memory box
Make digital recording of your memories, perhaps as a joint project with your grandchildren
Musical memory lasts the longest. Load a personal play list of your favourite music onto an iPod, help someone living with dementia do the same
Make a fidget quilt
Hold a Dementia awareness coffee morning or vintage tea party
Say someone is “Living with dementia” not “Suffering from dementia”
If you are not already a Dementia Friend, and would like to learn more about how you and your WI can make a difference in your community, please see the following link: