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Bluebird Care Devon Hosts Dementia Forum

Bluebird Care Devon Hosts Dementia Forum

Sara Carless first suspected her husband, Barrie, had dementia when he couldn’t remember the names of people he’d known for years.

“That was unusual, as he is a former schoolteacher and could easily recall the names of dozens of his former pupils. He then began forgetting how to do simple things, like how to use the TV remote,” she said.

Two years later, Barrie’s condition took a turn for the worse when he had an accident and banged his head. Sara recalled:

“In the space of a month, Barrie had changed. On one occasion, we had some friends around and before they got to the end of the garden path, Barrie became really angry, which was just so unlike him. At that point I knew something just wasn’t right”.

Sara and Barrie, who was diagnosed with Vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease (also known as Mixed Dementia) six years ago, were sharing their experiences at a forum organised by Bluebird Care East Devon, Exeter and Exmouth in conjunction with the Exeter Dementia Action Alliance.

Sara and Barrie speaking at Bluebird Care Devon's Dementia Forum
Sara and Barrie Carless speaking at the Dementia Forum organised by Bluebird Care East Devon, Exeter and Exmouth in conjunction with Exeter Dementia Action Alliance

The informal session held at Harry’s Restaurant in Exeter was part of Dementia Action Week. Those attending were customers of Bluebird Care Devon, most of whom had a family member diagnosed with a form of Dementia.

Bluebird Care Devon offers a range of homecare and wellbeing services to support people with Dementia, enabling them to live as independently as possible.

The event was hosted by Gina Awad, Lead of the Exeter Dementia Action Alliance & Dementia Friends Champion. Gina works with businesses in Exeter, educating and raising awareness of the condition.

Gina explained:

“There are a lot of people living in the community that haven’t been diagnosed. Around 60 per cent of people with Dementia are living with Alzheimer’s disease, which can affect concentration and planning; lead to memory loss, difficulty in making decisions and in carrying out a sequence of tasks, amongst other symptoms.”

Gina adds:

“Caring for someone with dementia can be isolating at times. My passion is to promote understanding and to change peoples’ perceptions of Dementia. It’s also important to acknowledge that everyone experiences dementia in their own way and not one person is the same.”

Gina Awad at Bluebird Care Devon Dementia Forum
Gina Awad, Lead of the Exeter Dementia Action Alliance & Dementia Friends Champion

There are over 100 types of Dementia, which is a complex brain disease and can affect people differently depending on which lobes of the brain are affected. Currently, there are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK and these figures are set to rise to over one million by 2021.

Barrie, 81, spoke about how the condition had affected his life:

“Before I was diagnosed with Dementia, I had always been involved in sport, played rugby and football. Coming to terms with my diagnosis has been hard, but I am very fortunate that Sara is such a great support to me and we are as active as possible in the community. For anyone going through this I would say, please speak to other people who are living with dementia because they can help so much.”

Barrie also told the audience that he and Sara are about to make the latest of several trips to visit their son, daughter in law and grandchildren in Zimbabwe.

After the session, one family member said:

“I found the session very useful and reassuring to know I am not alone and there are others in the same position. Being able to share stories and experiences is really important”.

Whilst there is no cure for Dementia, there is medication which can help with the symptoms. Regular exercise and social interaction can go a long way towards helping people to live as well as they can.

Bluebird Care wellbeing facilitator Phoebe Rowe said:

“We wanted to raise awareness about Dementia and give support to people who know someone living with Dementia. Most people, who attended the session, have a family member living with Dementia and they felt comfortable to share their stories and experiences with everyone else.

“People felt uplifted – and there was a sense of relief in the room – after the session had finished. I think people realised they are not alone and that there are support options available to them. I was very pleased with the outcome and the positive feedback that we received; a big ‘thank you’ to Gina, Sara and Barrie for sharing their knowledge and experiences with us.”

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