SOUTH Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck has revealed her own personal experiences with dementia sufferers as she trained to become a ‘friend’ to people with the disease.
Representatives of the borough branch of the Alzheimer’s Society met the MP and her team at her Labour Party headquarters in Westoe Road, South Shields.
They underwent a training session with borough dementia support worker Liz Williams to explore the impact the disease has – and to explain how the public can be of help to sufferers.
Dementia Friends is an Alzheimer’s Society initiative that aims to give people an improved awareness of the condition.
The sessions aim to improve public knowledge of dementia, by helping people understand what living with the condition might be like, and the small things they can do to make a difference to people living in their community.
It proved an enlightening experience for the town MP, who has had first-hand experience of supporting family and friends with dementia.
Her late grandmother, Eleanor Lewell, who lived at Hedworth in Jarrow, was a sufferer. Mrs Lewell-Buck said: “My gran had dementia and we helped care for her. She passed away when I was in my mid-20s.
“I saw my gran go from this woman who used to be incredibly strong and really powerful to someone who disappeared into a shell of what she used to be.”
The MP and her parents also supported another sufferer – their next-door neighbour, the late Charlie Dodds.
Mrs Lewell-Buck added: “Charlie was our next-door neighbour in Egfrid Terrace, Jarrow. Me and mum and dad cared for him until the point he had to go into a home because he needed care 24/7. We were all working and there was only so much you could do. For the eight or nine hours when we were at work he could go walking the street. We were like a family to him.
“There is never enough funding for social care for the elderly. If the level of funding put into adult social care was put into services for children it would be a national scandal.
“I’m not saying children services don’t deserve the funding they receive, but when you look at the needs of vulnerable adults they receive nowhere near per person what children’s services receive.
“Dementia Friends is about giving people an understanding of dementia and the small things they can do to make a difference to people living with dementia. I’ve signed up to show my support, and am encouraging people in South Shields to do the same.”
Mrs Williams said: “We were trying to give some insight to what it is like to live with dementia, so that in your ordinary life you can take a step back.
“One example that we give is being in a supermarket queue and you see someone having trouble finding their purse or not being able to remember the pin number on their card and you are frustrated behind them, thinking ‘I’m always in the wrong queue’.
“What we say is to take a step back and think that person may be suffering from dementia and it takes them a little more time to concentrate.”
Earlier this month, plans were announced for a new £9m state-of-the-art medical and social care centre in South Tyneside.
Council chiefs have awarded a contract for a new Integrated Care Services Hub to be built by South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust in the grounds of the borough’s District Hospital.
The 80-bed building is seen as crucial in how the borough deals with both an ageing population and an increasing number of people affected by dementia.
You can become a Dementia Friend by logging on to dementiafriends.org.uk or by calling the borough’s Alzheimer’s Society office on 427 5443.