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Advice on Supporting Someone Living with Dementia

13 April 2017
 April 13, 2017

Last week saw the conclusion of Emmerdale’s long running dementia storyline, with John Middleton delivering a heartbreaking final performance as his character Ashley Thomas bowed out of the soap after finally succumbing to his illness.

Viewers have watched Ashley’s story unfold since he was diagnosed with vascular dementia following a stroke. In December, an entire episode focused on seeing the world through Ashley’s eyes, showing the daily struggles he faced living with the condition.

The show’s producers worked closely with dementia charities throughout the creation of the storyline. John Middleton also took part in care home visits meeting sufferers and their families. When interviewed, John spoke of the importance of these visits in ensuring what was portrayed on screen was as accurate as possible.

“As I started researching vascular dementia, I thought we had a huge responsibility to get it right. A lot of people have first-hand experience and awareness of dementia so meeting people with dementia and their carers has been vital.”

John continued, “the way in which we have told the story is quite challenging but we are hoping to give at least something of an insight into what the world is like for someone living with dementia.”

Dementia affects an estimated 850,000 people in the UK. It is a progressive condition causing a loss of brain function that can result in memory loss, confusion and difficulty with speech. The number of sufferers is set to increase over the next few years to around 1 million by 2025. Currently an estimated 1 in 6 people over the age of 80 have been diagnosed with dementia, making it one of the biggest health issues of the modern era.

5 Tips to Help Make Life Easier for Dementia Sufferers

  • With dementia, many everyday tasks that we take for granted can become more difficult. Help loved ones to retain some independence by creating step by step guides on ‘how to make a cup of tea’ for example, or leave reminders on the back of the door to ensure it is locked if they leave the property.
  • Research has shown that listening to music can soothe dementia suffers as it is calming, enhances mood and can help with emotional recall and triggering memories. This is especially true of songs that have happy associations.
  • Write their address and emergency contact information on a piece of paper. Stick this to the back of their phone or on a key fob so it is always with them if they go out.
  • GPS enabled panic alarms can provide a vital lifeline for those suffers who find themselves lost or in danger. Simply pressing a button can put them through to specially trained Controllers who know their location and can stay on the line until help arrives. Some devices even allow relatives or carers to text the device and receive an SMS with its location, which helps track them down quickly.
  • Caring for someone with dementia can be an emotional rollercoaster. There are many organisations that can provide support for sufferers and their families, so it’s important to seek professional help if you need it and remember that you are not alone.