Published on 18 May 2015 12:30 PM
In Northern Ireland approximately 19,000 people are living with dementia, a number projected to rise to almost 60,000 by 2051, the fastest expected rate of increase in the UK (DHSSPS 2010). It is no surprise that at the world’s first G8 dementia summit last year, David Cameron called dementia ‘one of the greatest enemies of humanity’.
When a person is living with dementia, it is important for us all to ensure that they are treated as a unique individual, with respect and dignity. It’s vital that their voice is at the centre of decision-making regarding the services they receive. Age NI care services enable those voices to be heard in our dementia day centres; in Meadowbank, our best-practice dementia residential centre; and through our innovative My Life My Way project which supports older people who are living with dementia (and their carers) to live life their way.
Age NI’s My Life My Way volunteers are matched with people living with dementia in the Belfast and Northern Trust areas. Their role is to provide that little bit of help that allows a person to regain control and confidence. Sometimes it’s just a chat, a walk or maybe it’s doing something simple like making sure that important phone numbers are easily found. A small, positive change can have the most incredible impact on a person’s life and the relationships they share with others.
The Grant Study, a major study of human development in USA has found a powerful correlation between the ‘warmth of a person’s relationships and their overall health and happiness, especially in old age.’ As the number of people living with dementia grows, it is essential that we enable and encourage supportive relationships to grow and that we stay true to our values of respect and dignity in later life.