DEMENTIA SUPPORT HELPING CREATE AN AGE FRIENDLY ISLAND

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As part of Dementia Awareness Week (14th-20th May), Age Friendly Island are sharing a story from one of their projects, Carers Isle of Wight (Carers IW).

The Isle of Wight has the highest rate of residents diagnosed with dementia in England, and twice the proportion of the national average (1.4% of Island residents are diagnosed with dementia compared to the England average of 0.7%). Thankfully there are a number of specialised support services for those with dementia, plus support for their family and carers on the Isle of Wight.

Michael joined to Carers IW as the husband and main carer for his wife Rose who has Alzheimer’s disease, diagnosed at 58. The couple had recently relocated from Spain, where they had run their own business and built a good support network. However, Rose had been living with early onset dementia related issues for a few years and, as her illness progressed, they made the decision to sell up and move to the Isle of Wight to be closer to their two sons and grandchildren.

At his first visit to Carers IW Michael completed a full Carers Assessment and was informed of local support groups, both for himself and Rose. During the assessment it became clear that Michael had little knowledge about the progression of Alzheimer’s, and was increasingly struggling to care for Rose and react to her different behaviours.

With the support of a worker from Carers IW the couple visited their first Alzheimer’s Café, a project part-funded through the BIG Lottery’s Ageing Better Programme. The Alzheimer’s Café offers family, friends, carers and people with dementia the opportunity to socialise, meet representatives from other support services, learn about dementia and meet others in a similar position. They enjoyed it so much that this led to them joining ACE 7, a specialist early onset dementia support group run by Alzheimer Café, which offers social activities, day trips, expert talks and peer support.

Unfortunately over the next few months Rose’s condition deteriorated and she was starting to display more complex behaviours, which Michael was struggling to cope with. With the support of Carers IW, and their Social Worker, Michael made the difficult decision for Rose to enter a residential care home. Michael received ongoing emotional and practical support during this difficult transition, and was encouraged to continue to taking Rose out to the ACE 7 group and on family outings. However, he still felt like was at a bit of a loose end and was unsure of what to do next.

After talking with Carers IW he said how much he enjoyed using his iPad/tablet and had found it helpful while caring for Rose. He joined their regular iPad Library drop-in sessions and started to offer other carers one to one tuition. So far Michael has assisted over 40 carers to engage with and start to use new technology, helping them to become more digitally included and opening up new social and support options to each of them.

Thanks to Carers IW Michael has been able to make good use of his hobbies and give something back alongside caring for Rose. As well as his iPad tuition sessions he has worked with the charity to secure funding to purchase equipment and start a digital photography group for other carers.

Michael’s story offers a snapshot of how dementia affects more people than just the person with the diagnosis, and how vital it is to seek the correct support for you.

If you would like more information about the support Carers Isle of Wight can offer you, or a loved one, visit www.carersiw.org.uk or call 01983 533173. More information on Alzheimer’s Café can be found on their website www.alzheimercafeiow.org.uk or by calling 01983 220200.

More information about local dementia support services can be found on the Isle of Wight Dementia Road Map site www.dementiaroadmap.info/isleofwight.

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