A new experience for me this month – offering my local community a dementia education session. The idea was that by offering them insight into dementia-related issues surrounding hospital care, we could then apply that insight to what happens in our local community, enabling those attending to  take on board some simple dementia-friendly skills and tools.

I had no idea who might attend – or whether anyone would even turn up! As it was, all the chairs I’d put out were taken and more had to be brought in. Some had come along simply to learn, others hoped to understand what they’d never understood whilst caring for family members in the past – but it was soon apparent that some of them were caring for someone with dementia right now.

I watched those people in particular and could very easily see when something suddenly made sense to them. At one stage, because I could see those lights going on inside them, I stopped and asked whether anyone had to dash away at the end of the session, or whether we could take a little longer than planned; I wanted to fill them with as many insights and skills as possible and every member of the group gave permission for that to happen.

There was one further section to the session and it was designed to open up all those conversations that people so often think they’re not meant to have:

  • what if I think we need to use a care home? 
  • how can I really help a family carer?
  • is it ever okay to lie?

and so many more. 

After the presentation, drinks were served and people stood around, chatting. Whilst speaking with those who’d approached me, I could hear all sorts of other interesting conversations going on around the room. 

That’s where we need to be, isn’t it – having all those conversations and making it easier to have them? As I explained to the group, if the rest of us skill ourselves up and think issues through, what a difference we can make to the lives of people living with dementia!