THE Salford Institute of Dementia hosted a one day festival of guest speakers and activities, as the city celebrated its leading position in rates for early diagnosis of the condition. Morgan Driver attended The Good Life Festival to find out what Salford is offering to improve the lives of those directly affected…
Earlier in the year Jeremy Hunt unveiled his plans for the UK to become the “world’s most dementia friendly country” by 2020.
It came after Alzheimer’s Research UK warned that the condition posed a “looming national crisis”, and predicted that one million people in the UK will be affected by the condition by 2025.
Mr Hunt’s plan focuses on improving diagnosis rates. More than 3,000 people across Greater Manchester were diagnosed with the disease last year, after doctors launched a major attack on the disease.
Salford has the highest diagnosis rates at 76.3 per cent, compared to the national average, where less than half of people living with dementia obtained a diagnosis.
Furthermore, in Salford, for those diagnosed, the help does not stop there.
The Good Life Festival, held at The Old Fire Station by The Salford Institute of Dementia showcased just a few of the wide range of dementia friendly activities and opportunities that the community has to offer, from ballroom dancing and swimming, to gardening and holidays.
Joy Watson, 51, was diagnosed with Young Onset Dementia two years ago. Since then, Watson has become heavily involved in campaigning for people affected by dementia, particularly in Salford.
She has encouraged 100 businesses in the Eccles area to become a part of the Dementia Haven and in turn has been named a Dementia Champion for the region.
Watson gave a talk at the festival and showed a video of the work she has been doing towards improving the lives of Salford’s dementia patients and their loved ones.
Before she was diagnosed, Watson noticed a gradual deterioration of her memory, but doctors were reluctant to diagnose her with dementia at such a young age.
After her diagnosis, things improved: “Aside from the medication I received, which has helped me a lot, I have also received a lot of support and met a lot of people who were in the same position as me,” Watson said.
There is however, still a stigma that often surrounds mental illness – dementia in particular. Watson described a bad experience in her local petrol station.
My card got stuck in the machine, so I went inside to ask for assistance and one man stood and laughed and laughed at me until I cried.”
But the tale had a happy ending: “One lady there recognised me from a Dementia Friends session and helped me drive back home.”
The aim of The Good Life Festival was to help in increasing this support network, and building a social circle for those affected in the Salford area.
Mike Howarth, 70, from Salford, explained how the Open Doors initiative, which encourages those diagnosed to come along to support groups and ‘dementia cafes’, has helped him since his diagnosis.
“Socialising and conversation are the best forms of mental exercise,” Howarth said.
The event’s guests were also invited to hear a talk by Tony Husband, cartoonist for the Manchester Evening News, who told a personal account of his father’s experiences with Dementia.
Husband then opened the floor and did a live sketching session of people’s fondest memories. The artist, whose work has featured in Private Eye magazine, talked about his book Take Care Son, and revealed that the makers of the popular cartoon The Snowman plan to make it into a feature film, composed by the band Elbow.
The event was an uplifting experience for everyone involved, with a dance workshop and a sing-along session to end the day.
After the event, members from The Salford Institute spoke to me about the importance of early diagnosis.
“The sooner it is detected, the faster the doctors can act. There are a few warning signs such as difficulty remembering names and places, and forgetting TV plot lines.”
“Diagnosis is not the end of the road, it’s just a different route.” – Mike Howarth, Dementia sufferer
By Morgan Driver