LibLink: Norman Lamb: Dementia, loneliness and how we can help

My motherIn Sunday’s Observer, Norman Lamb wrote about the importance of the Dementia Friends initiative. He starts by describing a situation that’s becoming all to common for people with Dementia and their carers:

It is four o’clock in the morning. A man has been roused from an already fitful sleep by his wife. She is upset and confused. And she has wet the bed. He has to comfort her and change the sheets at the same time. Eventually he is able to return to bed and get a little bit of rest before his wife wakes up again. Then he will face a day of enormous challenges, before the night cycle repeats itself.

He does it because he loves her – and because she still counts. Theirs is not a life devoid of any joy or pleasure. But dementia can be a cruel condition, both for those who have it and for the people who love and care for them.

Yet these two are comparatively lucky, because they have each other. Dementia combined with loneliness is truly devastating. Tragically, it is a situation in which many more people are due to find themselves.

But what if you live on your own with nobody to care for you and give you that all-important companionship?

And dementia and loneliness already meet all too frequently. TheAlzheimer’s Society has found that a third of people with dementia have lost friends. Nearly two-thirds of those with dementia who live by themselves feel lonely. Some 5% of people with the condition have not told friends about their diagnosis. All of this is deeply distressing.

So we need an assault on the twin epidemics of dementia and loneliness. Of course we have to find new ways to manage dementia – and ultimately to cure it. But in the meantime, we must do more to help people cope with it.

Helping people live well with dementia is a big priority for this government and an essential step in creating a fairer society.

Politicians can only do so much, though:

Compassion for others is a moral imperative that none of us should ignore.

That’s why the Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme is so important. It supports people who want better to understand all the implications of the condition. I have gone through the programme and become a Dementia Friend, and it is hugely worthwhile and informative.

He urged people to follow his example and sign up to be a Dementia friend:

 If just a fraction of the many millions of Guardian and Observer readers signed up to be a Dementia Friend by it could have a major and enduring impact. And it would be a fantastic way of helping to overcome our loneliness epidemic.

Just as good neighbours are concerned about crime, so they should be concerned that the people who live in their community are properly looked after.

We all matter, we all need to be loved, and we should all do all we can to look out for others – remembering just how vulnerable and unhappy we would be if we were lonely ourselves.

You can read the whole article here.

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  • Eddie Sammon 15th May '14 - 2:33am

    Just signed up to be a dementia friend and will try to attend a session as soon as I can. It is not a full activist role (that is what the dementia friends champions are) and can simply involve learning how to help people with dementia, raising awareness or perhaps fundraising. They are aiming for a million dementia friends by 2015.

    I’d recommend reading Norman’s article to not only find out more about the initiative, but as an example for how politics could be if we got rid of the worse excesses of spin and tribalism.

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