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Thursday, 2 August 2018

University of 3rd AgeDementia – a One Stop Guide

Speaker: Professor June Andrews

Professor June Andrews from Stirling University was U3A Todmorden's special speaker on Thursday 19th July and her topic, dementia, was one that we were all more than interested in.

June's informal style and engaging ordinariness belied her tremendous authority, reassuring practicality and down-to-earth sensitivity.

Having startled us with the statement that dementia is a fatal condition for which there is no cure, she was at pains to explain how it is possible to minimise the difficulties which it imposes on sufferers, family and friends.

Dementia is not a disease

First of all, dementia is not a disease: it is a set of symptoms such as agitation, anxiety, unintended weight loss, memory difficulties and repetitive vocalisation (obsessive repetition of short phrases). 


In turn these can lead, for example, to aggressive behaviour, depression, hallucinations, sleeplessness and wandering (sometimes referred to as 'unwanted exiting').


All these are caused by a number of diseases – Alzheimer's, Vascular Disease or Lewy Body Disease. And it can be brought on or accelerated by other conditions such as Parkinson's, diabetes, or mini-strokes. Sometimes physical trauma such as concussion or a broken hip can cause a deterioration as well.


How, therefore to manage it? June was emphatic that the more that can be done without medication, the better'.

Exercise and doing things that make you happy help. Don't eat coconut oil if the Daily Mail says you should and you hate it. The University of Reading suggests champagne helps; so if you like champagne, ditch the coconut oil.

Brain work makes a difference. Using it can delay losing it.

June also recommends that staff in care homes wear pyjamas at night to encourage residents to realise that it's night-time and they should be sleeping.

Most importantly, we should try to understand a dementia sufferer's odd behaviour. There's no point arguing, because they are being governed by reasoning they can't control: it's more helpful to work out what that reasoning is.

Thank goodness June is a policy activist, persuading governments that dementia needs alternative solutions to the ones they may be promoting. 

June's talk was supplemented by Geoff Shaw, a Watch Commander at Todmorden Fire Station and Deputy Chair of Dementia Friendly Todmorden. He is heavily involved with the Daisy Cafe in the Health Centre.

How the Fire Service helps

Geoff described how the Fire Service helps dementia sufferers. For example, they make referrals into social services, install smoke detectors linked to care lines, and provide night lights. 

They also check how many medications sufferers are on: more than four increases the chances of a fall.

This was a revealing and encouraging afternoon at U3A. We enjoyed knowledgeable and expert speakers. June also encouraged us to email her for advice if we wanted to. It was clear several of us will be doing so.

Our meeting included our AGM chaired by Ernie Rogan, our outgoing chairman to whom we owe a debt of gratitude for his dedicated service. He is worthily succeeded by Gill Radford. A full report is on our website.

U3A Todmorden's next meeting will be on Thursday, August 16th, 2018 in the Central Methodist Church Hall in Todmorden.  Our speaker will be David Bell whose talk is titled 'Trust Me... I'm Your Plague Doctor!'  

Our contact details are (website) www.u3atod.org.uk, (email) enquiries@u3atod.org.uk, or (phone) 01706 812015.

Many thanks to Anthony Peter for this report


Previous U3A reports on the HebWeb - click here

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