This festive period, people living with dementia are at significant risk of being isolated, according to new findings revealed by Alzheimer’s Society. New figures released today (16 December) reveal that a lack of understanding about the condition has led to those with dementia being excluded during what should be a joyful time of year.
A new study among people affected by dementia, was carried out by Alzheimer’s Society and reveals that:
- Half (49 per cent) of those caring for somebody with dementia believe Christmas is an isolating time for people with the condition
- Nearly two thirds (63 per cent) of people with dementia have found that Christmas invitations have dried up since their diagnosis
- 47 per cent feel that people don’t have time to include those living with dementia at Christmas
- 71 per cent of carers think that a lack of understanding is causing people with dementia to be excluded at Christmas
- Almost half (47 per cent) of people with dementia admit that their biggest worry is how family and friends will react to unusual behaviour
Nearly 80 per cent of people with dementia name shopping as their favourite activity, yet 63 per cent of those polled do not believe that shops are doing enough to help people with dementia.
Alzheimer’s Society and Public Health England (PHE) are calling on people to join the half a million individuals and over thirty businesses who are already helping to make this Christmas a dementia friendly one by becoming Dementia Friends. Twenty of these businesses are on the high street and include Argos, Barclays, Homebase, Lloyds Banking Group, Santander and M&S.
A Dementia Friend is someone who has learnt a bit more about what it is like to have dementia, and the small ways they can support someone living with the condition. Retailers are encouraging their employees to become Dementia Friends, and providing guidance on supporting customers with dementia, including paying for goods and talking on the phone. Many staff who are Dementia Friends will be on hand to support customers affected by the condition when doing their Christmas shopping this year.
A new guide, also published today by Alzheimer’s Society and PHE, contains tips on how best to support people with dementia at Christmas – both at home and in the community. From singing traditional songs to having a quiet room set aside at a party, there are many ways to include people living with dementia at Christmas time. To download a copy of the guide, visit http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/christmasguide.
Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive at Alzheimer’s Society said: ‘Christmas is usually a time when families, friends and communities get together but people affected by dementia can struggle to take part or get left out altogether. It can be particularly painful when invitations to social events dry up because friends and neighbours fear dementia and don’t know how to act.
‘The more people understand about dementia and become Dementia Friends, the more we can reduce the stigma and enable people living with the condition to feel more confident about taking part in their local community.’
Celebrity Dementia Friend, Fiona Phillips, is an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society. In 2006 her mother, who lived with Alzheimer’s, passed away. Her father was diagnosed with the disease shortly afterwards and died in 2012. She said: ‘I know first-hand the devastating impact Alzheimer’s has on those living with the disease and their families. Christmas is such a wonderful time of year but it can also be very stressful.
‘It’s so important for friends and families to support each other, both emotionally and practically. Just being on the end of the phone or offering to help with the shopping can be a big help for someone caring for a person living with dementia.’
Tom Walden (29) from London thinks that Dementia Friends in local shops will have a really positive impact on his parents. His father Peter has frontotemporal dementia and motor neurone disease, which means that Tom’s mother Brenda often finds shopping with Peter a struggle. Tom said: ‘We need to increase public understanding of dementia as people still don’t know that there are many different types of dementia with a range of symptoms and behaviours. My dad is prone to wandering off when he’s out and about with my mother, and has lost his ability to speak, but because he doesn’t display any memory loss, people don’t tend to realise that he has dementia and often find his actions rude or disconcerting.’
Professor Kevin Fenton, National Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England, said: ‘In the excitement of Christmas, communities and individuals often overlook the needs of people with dementia. It is, however, encouraging to see the growing support for those living with the condition, through the fact that there are now more than half a million Dementia Friends and over thirty supporting organisations.
‘Through little actions, such as having more patience and not leaving out those affected by the condition, Dementia Friends can make a big difference to the lives of people with dementia, at Christmas time and throughout the year.’
By 2015, there will be 850,000 people with dementia in the UK. Dementia Friends was launched to tackle the stigma and lack of understanding that means many people with the condition experience loneliness and social exclusion. Anyone can become a Dementia Friend by watching a short online video or attending a face-to-face session. To find out more visit www.dementiafriends.org.uk