The Christmas period is undoubtedly a time many of us look forward to spending with family and friends and that’s no different for me. My beloved grandmother “Nans” turned 91 a couple of days before Christmas and my family and many of Nans’ friends – laden with copious amounts of cake – went down to Wales to see her and celebrate.
Nans and I have always been extremely close and she is the single most influential person in my life aside from my parents. But a lot has changed in our relationship in the last 12 years. Nans was diagnosed with dementia in 2004 and from that moment our lives changed significantly.
But on days like Friday, when we all come together and celebrate her life with those who love her the most, there are still moments of the purest magic.
Dementia is an urgent health crisis that we can no longer ignore. Some 850,000 people in the UK have the condition and more than 47 million people globally live with it.
Its growing prevalence has improved how we, as a society, view dementia. But there is still a long way to go and the stigma of dementia remains rife.
Too many common myths and misconceptions about dementia still exist. Time and again I hear reference to it as just being a natural part of ageing. And, unfortunately, it is often the butt of distasteful jokes.
But dementia is a disease of the brain and it requires understanding, care and support.
The first step in changing people’s understanding of dementia and improving the lives of those who have the condition involves educating people not just on our doorstep, but across the world.
Schemes that set out to change perceptions are doing fantastic work already. The Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends is a good example. It has 1.7 million people signed up to take action and change the way people think, act and talk about dementia. Through information sessions participants are asked to think about what living with dementia might be like, practically and emotionally, and are encouraged to make changes within their community to make life a bit easier for people living with dementia.