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People are being encouraged to unite to increase awareness of dementia during Dementia Action Week, taking place this week.

Organised by the Alzheimer’s Society, the week aims to raise awareness and understanding about the challenges of living with dementia.

Dementia is a common condition and the risk of developing it increases as someone gets older.  The condition usually occurs in people over the age of 65 although some people are affected by young onset dementia, which is also called ‘early onset’ or ‘working age dementia’.  Symptoms of dementia include memory loss and problems with thinking speed, mental agility, language, understanding and judgement.

Kathy Holmes, Engagement and Involvement Lead for the Managing Memory Together Service said: “There is no simple test for dementia and diagnosing it is not straightforward because many of its symptoms occur with other conditions.  Early diagnosis is important to ensure that people receive the right treatment and support to live as well as possible with dementia. An early diagnosis can also enable people to prepare for the future and plan ahead.

“It’s important that people support Dementia Awareness Week so everyone understands the challenges of living with dementia for those who have it and for those who care for them.”

“The more people are aware of the signs and symptoms of dementia, the more likely they are to get help earlier and see their GP.  Accessing the right help is very important,” she added.

Managing Memory Together runs group sessions for people at early stage dementia and for carers of people with dementia throughout Gloucestershire.  Kathy said: “People tell us that having a better understanding of the condition and how to manage some of the symptoms can make a real difference. In addition, people really value the opportunity to meet with others and share experiences, which helps them to feel more supported and less isolated.”

During the awareness week, medical charity Cobalt and local technology company IRESS are teaming up to create an outdoor oasis for dementia patients at ²gether’s Fritchie Centre which is based within the grounds of Cheltenham’s Charlton Lane Hospital.  The centre provides specialist assessment, treatment and care for older people with dementia.

The garden makeover will enable dementia patients to get outdoors and enjoy a safe and relaxing environment.  The space includes decking and a herb planter.  Other local businesses have donated plants, hard landscaping materials and garden ornaments to support the project.

Emma Mortiboy, Projects and Partnerships Officer for Cobalt, said: “The fantastic support of these businesses will enable IRESS to transform this outdoor space into a haven for dementia patients.”

The garden has been designed to provide sensory experiences, including touch and smell through textured and scented flowers, plants and herbs.

The Cheltenham-based charity is also keeping dementia patients in supply of knitted tubes, called ‘twiddlemuffs’ which keep their hands busy. Charity worker Karen creates the knitted sleeves from oddments of wool and additional pieces of interest are sewn on such as stretchy elastic, textured materials or even buttons.  They can be made in the person’s favourite colours or reflect the strip of their football or other sports team.

“They are fun, relaxing and easy to make,” she said.  “The creative possibilities are endless. I’m really pleased that people get enjoyment and comfort from them.”

Joanne Parker, Activities Coordinator at 2gether NHS Foundation Trust, said: “People with dementia may show anxiety or nervousness through fidgety hands. They may pull or rub at clothes or wring their hands. The twiddlemuffs Karen makes provide comfort and help to reduce anxiety for our patients.”

The NHS Gloucestershire CCG information bus will be encouraging people to talk about dementia on Thursday May 24 from 10am to 3pm when the bus is parked up outside Marks and Spencer in Cheltenham town centre.

Managing Memory can be contacted on 0800 694 8800 or 2gnft.managingmemory2g@nhs.net