The meeting was led by a Dementia Friends Champion, a volunteer who explained Dementia Friends is a social movement designed to improve understanding.
It is all about helping people living with dementia, and their families, live well with dementia.
Over the course of an hour, a room full of solicitors (and me!) were presented with the facts about dementia and how we can all better work with people living with dementia.
One of the most enlightening exercises – which I won’t reveal here in case it spoils the surprise for those who have not attended the Dementia Friends introductory session – brought home the fact that if you’ve met one person with dementia, you have only met one person living with dementia.
Dementia affects everyone very differently, so it is important we do not make assumptions about their capabilities.
Some of the first signs of dementia include short-term memory loss and language issues; forgetting or substituting words for things can be a sign, such as calling a dog a horse.
Dementia can often result in fear and embarrassment, with the stigma attached sometimes a reason for avoiding a proper diagnosis by visiting a GP.
Different types of dementia tend to progress differently.
Vascular dementia often has a step-like progression, while Alzheimer’s disease can progress more like a curve.
Understanding the type of dementia is important in understanding how it is likely to progress.
We were given an example of how there is much more to a person than their dementia.
The trainer and also the solicitor I was sitting with during the session recommended a book called Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey, which I’ve added to my Amazon wishlist and look forward to reading soon.
When working with people living with dementia, we were encouraged to use short sentences and ask closed questions.
We must be prepared to slow down, but not be patronising, and also be prepared for some confusion.
I finished the session by registering as a Dementia Friend.
A Dementia Friend learns a little bit more about what it’s like to live with dementia and then turns that understanding into action.
Part of that action for me is writing this blog post and sharing it on Social Media.
I will also be exploring how Informed Choice can become a Dementia Friendly Organisation in the future, as a growing number of our clients experience dementia, either personally or with a family member.
If you have the opportunity to attend a Dementia Friends information session, I highly recommend it and believe it is a valuable way to spend an hour.