Needs of dementia patients highlighted

A DONACLONEY woman whose husband has Alzheimer’s Disease has spoken of the help he has received from a community project aimed at older people with memory loss.

Linda Lyttle says the ‘Remembering Together’ project has been a beneficial outlet for her husband Bill since he was diagnosed with the illness a couple of years ago.

The project, run by the Northern Ireland Reminiscence Network and supported by Atlantic Philanthropies, bring people together with dementia and gives them a chance to talk about things from their past.

Support for such initiatives coincides with a recent conference ‘Achievements, Challenges and the Road Ahead for an Ageing Population’ organised by the Big Lottery Fund, The Atlantic Philanthropies, The Community Foundation for Northern Ireland and The Lloyds TSB Foundation for Northern Ireland.

The event was designed to bring together stakeholders from all sectors in Northern Ireland to consider how best to meet the challenges ahead for an ageing population.

Speaking after the event, Frank Hewitt, chairman of the Big Lottery Fund’s Northern Ireland committee, said society must embrace a “joined-up” approach towards the future, given that people are living longer.

“2012 is the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity Between Generations, so it is timely that we celebrate the contribution older people make to society and highlight work that supports their independence and inclusion,” he said.

Highlighting just what an impact imaginative community projects can have, Linda (60) said life definitely took a turn for the better when Bill (73) joined the ‘Remembering Together’ project.

“Bill can get quite down at times,” she says. “He was always a big, strong man; a farmer who thought nothing of working 12 or 13-hour days.

“The Remembering Together prjoect has been a great outlet for him. It brings together people living with Alzheimer’s and gives them a chance to talk about things from their past - things they can remember. You can tell he gets a lot from the monthly sessions as he really looks forward to them.

“I think it’s just the fact that he’s out among people and feels he has something to contribute again.”

Alexey Janes from the Reminiscence Network Northern Ireland said recalling the past performed different functions for different people - depending on their needs and circumstances.

“We use reminiscence to promote a cohesive, inclusive, caring and just society where people value themselves and others through recalling and sharing their memories,” he said.

“In the health and social care sector, problems of social exclusion, isolation and boredom commonly experienced by many older people and those with disabilities, can be eased by means of taking part in reminiscence sessions and related artistic activities.

“This is because reminiscence utilises the recall of residual and long-term memories and retained creativity, irrespective of the condition or disability.”