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Hethersett - Dementia Friendly

Hethersett launched itself as a dementia friendly village at a special evening attended by over 60 people at Hethersett Hall.

Local businesses, groups and organisations were represented as Hethersett became only the seventh village or town in Norfolk to become officially "dementia friendly." The evening was the culmination of the work of a dementia friendly steering group and members were on hand to cut a celebratory cake.

The evening, which was compered by former Hethersett GP Dr Tony Press, featured keynote speeches from Leslie Evans whose parents both suffered from dementia, Willie Cruickshank, Director of the Norfolk and Suffolk Dementia Alliance; Zena Aldridge, Lead Admiral Nurse for Norfolk and Tina Neil, Training and Staff Development Officer for Age UK Norfolk.

"Attitudes are changing but my experience was one of fear and being frightened. Carers can suffer from the guilt of not being able to do anything to help," Mrs Evans said, referring to her parents condition as being "an emotional journey over the years."

Willie Cruickshank emphasised the fact that "people are living longer."

"Out of 25 babies born in Norwich today, three will live to be 100. Current life expectency in Norfolk is 84 years. At the outbreak of the First World War it was just 43," he said.

In 1958, 352 people received a telegram from the Queen for reaching their 100th birthday. Last year this figure was 13,800 and by 2050 it is expected to reach 350,000.

"We have to ask how we add life to people's years," he said, adding that dementia can affect people in their 30s, 40s and 50s as well as the elderly. Norfolk has 8,500 dementia sufferers living in the community, many of whom live alone.

"The fear amongst sufferers can be overwhelming - a fear and lack of confidence in going out, a fear of getting lost and a fear of becoming a burden. Some sufferers get out as little as once a month.

"There is still ignorance and a stigma about dementia. It remains a very complex subject. It is a disease of the brain and an organ failure just like other physical failures," he said.

Mr Cruickshank gave a number of key steps to help people with dementia. These included the following:


Engaging with people with dementia

Raising awareness and challenging stigma

Making community activities accessible to people with dementia

Asking what benefit dementia sufferers can add to the community

Providing consistent and reliable travel solutions

Providing easily understandable signs throughout the community

Making businesses responsive and dementia friendly.

"It is fantastic to see what you will do in the coming years to make Hethersett an outstanding dementia friendly village," Mr Crucikshank added.

Zena Aldridge outlined the work of Admiral Nurses in supporting dementia sufferers and their families.

"Dementia is an umbrella term for over 200 types. Everyone suffering with dementia will be different. By 2021 we will have over one million sufferers in the United Kingdom. Communities can change the lives of those affected through showing respect and dignity," she said, adding that Hethersett has access to the Admiral Nursing Services through the village doctors' surgery.

Tina Neil urged as many local people as possible to take part in coming free dementia awareness workshops aimed at helping Hethersett become a fully dementia aware community.

These workshops will take place at Woodcote Sheltered Housing Scheme in Firs Road, Hethersett on Tuesday 26th May from 2 to 5 p.m and Tuesday 2nd June from 5.30 to 8.30 p.m.

The essence of the evening was summed up by Dr Press - "We want to support people suffering from dementia whilst allowing them to be as independent as possible."

The Hethersett Hub Dementia Support cafe will meet monthly with the first coffee morning taking place on May 19th.

Our picture at the top of the page shows Steering Group chairman David Bills with other members of the group.