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"Just because someone has been diagnosed with dementia, it doesn’t mean that they stop being themselves"

Who are you and what is your role at Age UK Sheffield?

My name is John Parr and I am part of the Information and Advice team at Age UK Sheffield. My role is predominantly based around advising people about their benefit options, but I also offer information and advice to support older people with a variety of different social and economic problems.

There can be a lot of misconceptions and sometimes even stigma surrounding dementia. What do you think is the most common misconception? Conversely, what do you think the first thing that people hoping to understand more about dementia should know?

I think one of the most common misconceptions about dementia is that everyone who is diagnosed goes down exactly the same path, whereas in reality, people have very divergent experiences of it. I also think it is important to help people with dementia find the best balance for them between accepting support and maintaining independence. Although dementia can eventually limit a person’s independence, keeping the mind active and doing as much as someone can manage by themselves is often the best way to combat dementia.

Age UK Sheffield runs the Wellbeing Centre, a day centre specifically for people in Sheffield who have mild to moderate dementia or memory loss. When you first visited the Centre, what was your initial impression?
My first impressions of the Wellbeing Centre were really positive. The staff are incredibly supportive and understanding, which creates a very relaxed and fruitful environment for those who visit the day centre. There is a vast array of activities for those who visit the centre to take part in and everyone is encouraged to do whatever they would like there, even if they just want a cup of tea and a chat. When I went, it was lovely to see that everyone felt very at home at the centre.

Questions 4: Do you have any thoughts or advice from your experience of supporting people with dementia?
Your Answer: From my own experience, it is best to make sure that everyone with dementia is treated as an individual and with dignity. Just because someone has been diagnosed with dementia, it doesn’t mean that they stop being themselves. While aspects of their personality or temperament might alter, with the right support from local community groups and services, people with dementia can still lead fulfilling and enjoyable lives. It just requires some time and effort to look into what help may suit each person best.

Are there any changes that you can think of in your local area that could be made to make Sheffield a more age friendly place to live?
I think that a lot of older people need more support to maintain pace with an increasingly computerised world. Many of our local services in Sheffield are changing rapidly without thinking about the ramifications that this has on older generations. Although this change is bound to continue, I think more help needs to be provided for older people who struggle to access benefits and services that are vital to their wellbeing. Age UK Sheffield is trying to include the voices of older people into this process, but there needs to be more awareness of this issue and more organisations moving towards workable solutions which can allow older people to preserve their independence.