Last week was Dementia Awareness Week, and local schools have been working with a day care centre for older people so pupils can learn about the disease and also join in group activities.
Dementia is a disease of the brain affecting 850,000 people in the UK, with numbers set to rise to more than 1 million people by 2025. Yet awareness and understanding of it remains low. Dementia is unique to everyone who suffers with it. It is a frightening experience for those with it and for those who are carers, family or friends.
Bringing the generations together
The Michael Flanders Resource Centre in Acton provides tailored support and resources through the working week, helping sufferers manage their disease while providing carers with an opportunity to have a break in the comfort of knowing their loved one is safe.
Recently, staff from the centre, including its manager Patricia Hayward, visited two local schools to raise the children’s awareness of dementia
Patricia said: “The engagement we’ve had recently with children from Berrymead Infant School and St Vincent’s Catholic Primary School has been such fun and thoroughly beneficial. I’ve been amazed at how engaged and interactive the children have been, and also at the questions they asked. Considering these are children from as young as five, they asked really intellectual, grown up and honest questions.”
She and her staff have presented to children at the schools and carried out workshops to explain about dementia and what it means to have the condition, the impact it has on the brain and about the activities that take place at the centre.
As a result, children from both schools are visiting the centre in return, participating in activities with staff and customers such as gardening, baking and reminiscing sessions. It helps to spark memories and encourage greater communication from those they meet and interact with.
‘Chance to make someone’s life better’
At St Vincent’s the school’s ‘Mini Vinnies’ group will be taking part. The Mini Vinnies is a student version of the St Vincent de Paul society – a global charitable society which helps a number of different causes including the homeless and elderly.
Staff from Michael Flanders visited the school on ‘Shoesday’ during Walk to School week to demonstrate how the brain works, how it is affected by dementia and what foods are known to reduce the risk of dementia.
Anna Lowe, teacher at St Vincent’s, explained: “The Mini Vinnies have been doing some amazing charity work since being set up in September last year. Here at St Vincent’s we are keen to help our local community, and feel so privileged to be building links with the Michael Flanders Centre. As one Mini Vinnie put it, ‘It’s our chance to help and make someone’s life better’. We are looking forward to meeting the customers at the centre and to take part in activities with them, giving something back to those people who have already given so much to our community.”
“The next phase of our work with the school is to build awareness of dementia into the school curriculum as part of personal, social, health and economic education – or PSHE as it is called,” said Patricia. “This will then be available across the whole school age range and mean that our children have an awareness of dementia which will support them and their loved ones who may suffer in the future.”
To find out more about Dementia Awareness Week visit www.alzheimers.org.uk