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Living with Dementia – an interactive training session to improve awareness

Dementia 1

A training company from Liverpool helped to raise awareness of people living with dementia at an interactive session aimed at doctors, nurses and allied health professionals.

The company's crew of actors explored a range of scenarios designed to help think about dementia, how it affects families and the challenges it presents. The session consisted of a series of scenes and presentations, interspersed with comments and questions by the company manager to involve the audience.

The focus of training consultancy AFTA Thought is to increase understanding and empathy for patients with the often misunderstood condition. "We bring to life the lived experience of people with dementia," said director Mary Austin. One of the general messages is that dementia is not a natural part of the ageing process.

The work is based on research and conversations with people who have dementia, their carers and family members. It aims to dispel stereotypes and address common reactions to the diagnosis in order to paint a more accurate picture of an illness that affects 800,000 people in the UK and 4,000 in Manchester alone. With over a hundred different types of dementia - Alzheimer's and dementia with Lewy bodies being the most common ones - it's possible to be affected by several types. The resulting brain damage might affect thoughts, language, memory, recognition, and sleeping patterns.

Dementia 2In 2011 the government implemented the National Dementia Strategy as dementia costs the government £23 billion a year with a rising numbers of cases. The strategy promotes the right for people with dementia to live well and identifies three key stages to improve their well-being: improved awareness, earlier diagnosing and a higher quality of patient care.

Austin explained that, even if not remembered, moments of joy played an important role in the well-being of patients and a specially designed programme, the Butterfly Scheme, helped carers to learn a different approach to treating dementia patients. She added that patients often drifted into a different world, mainly the past, as a consequence of the loss of short-term memory. An important shift in care is trying to understand the patient's perspective instead of employing what used to be called "reality orientation": bringing the patient back into the here and now. "The person is still there", said Austin, "it's just about finding them and addressing their needs."