Patricia Bradwell: Supporting people to live well with dementia in Lincolnshire

Almost all of us have a dementia story. I doubt there are many who haven’t seen its far reaching effects.

I recently attended a Living Well with Dementia in Lincolnshire event to help showcase the services and support available as well as launch the county council’s new dementia strategy.

It might shock some people to learn that the cost of dementia to the NHS is more than that of cancer, heart disease and stroke combined. There are now more people diagnosed with dementia in the UK than there are that of cancer.

It’s a big challenge to support people but one Lincolnshire County Council absolutely committed to. As more people in Lincolnshire each year are being identified with a dementia type illness, we need to make sure they get the right support at the right time.

I have met many people living with the effects of the disease and all of their stories resonated with me. I believe there is an urgency to ensure local health and social care services across the County are responding to the needs of our residents.

Last week I was privileged to witness best-selling author Wendy Mitchell talk about her experiences of living with dementia. In her words: “Every day is a different day, but you can adapt, you’re not beaten”.

Wendy’s book ‘Somebody I used to Know’ is an inspirational read and an honest account of someone who actually has the disease, I highly recommend it.

Whilst recognising the challenges Wendy talks about the things she can do, things that help and how people might be able to help her.

Now, not everybody is like Wendy, I appreciate not many of us will be planning a skydive any time soon, but there are ways in which to help ‘lift the fog of dementia’. Indeed Wendy talked about how enjoyable it was to try new activities and do things ordinarily you might not have.

Last week I tried ‘Singing for the Brain’. I could see how singing lifted people’s spirits instantly. It was eye (and ear) opening; those in the room with dementia were engaging with other people, laughing their way through songs, they were undeniably happy.

Much progress has been made in the past 5 years since our first dementia strategy was launched. There are a range of services and support now available.

I’m particularly pleased there are now over 19,000 ‘Dementia Friends’ in the county, and the Dementia Family Support Service which since late 2015 has helped over 3,200 people with dementia and their carers in Lincolnshire, is continuing in its vital role.

This represents just a little of the support available, but even so, it is fair to say there is much more we can do to help people both before and after a diagnosis.

We want people to live as fully as possible with dementia and have access to support and services. People, after a diagnosis, should be given the help they need to able to live at home, independently, for longer.

We are also committed to helping carers of people with dementia, of which I’m one myself, indeed carers are most often family members. We know they are at risk of isolation, and those providing care are more likely to experience ill-health.

We will help ensure both people with dementia, and their carers are offered support, information and advice.

It is also vitally important all of us continue to promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Again, it might surprise people to know that a third of all dementias are entirely preventable.
What is good for the heart is good for the brain, and can in some instances actually slow the progression of the disease.

By increasing awareness and understanding of dementia among both the public and among professionals we can make a real difference to improving the lives of people living with the disease, and also support those who care for them.

I know how important this issue is to people. Our commitment to the people of Lincolnshire is quite simple; we will do all we can to ensure access to care and support for those who need it.
For information to all dementia services please visit www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/adult-care