Last week I attended a performance of ‘The Keys are in the Margarine’, a play that Bupa are supporting. It tells the stories of people with dementia and their families and friends.
One of the stories that stuck with me was about a man with dementia who regularly went to the gym. He was fine until it came to leave, when he couldn’t identify his gym bag in the changing room. In order to find the right bag, he decided to sit in the changing room until everyone else had left, and then take the last bag.
One of the gym employees noticed his behaviour, and asked if he was ok and if she could help. When he told her his dilemma, her solution was to hold onto his bag for him while he worked out, and give it to him when he was finished. This was a simple way to solve what felt to him like an insurmountable problem – all it took was for someone to notice and offer to help.
I thought this was a lovely example of how sometimes it’s the little things that can enable people to live well with dementia.
Recently, Bupa conducted a survey, and found that more than half of the respondents were unaware that people living with dementia can live long fulfilling lives.
It’s only in the later stages that dementia can become really challenging, yet 41 per cent of people stated that they were fearful at the prospect of dementia. 53 per cent of respondents said they had never had someone close to them live with dementia, and so it would appear that widespread perceptions of dementia do not match the reality.
Earlier this month I took part in the Dementia Summit at Te Papa in Wellington, where we shared knowledge and ideas to ensure people living with dementia are able to live well, and that family and friends are properly supported.
It’s wonderful to see initiatives like Westpac’s first dementia friendly bank being set up and I think we can expect to see more of this type of thing in future as society becomes more aware of the need to create dementia friendly communities.
As Bupa’s global Director of Dementia care, Professor Graham Stokes, puts it:
“By ensuring good dementia awareness education at school, creating dementia friendly communities and workplaces and encouraging personal responsibility for reducing the risk of dementia, we may approach a situation where the value, involvement and support of people with dementia will have been transformed by 2030. It will mean raising the bar considerably in terms of what it means to be a dementia informed society”
We should be doing all we can to help make our communities more dementia friendly, and at Bupa we are committed to shaping global dementia care and having people living with dementia lead happier lives, for as long as they can. We have joined forces with other care organisations to outline, for the very first time, what we believe are the rights of people living with dementia, wherever they are in the world.