With one in three of the over-75s expected to develop dementia, a new support group was launched in Hunstanton at the weekend.
Health professionals, carers, sufferers and service providers came together at St Edmund’s Church Hall for the first meeting of Calm (Caring, Advising, Listening, Mentoring).
Organised by Debra Sautner, from Somerset Villa, and with speakers from local care homes Norfolk Lodge and Rebecca Court, the Norfolk and Suffolk Dementia Alliance (NDSA) and Careline, this first meeting aimed to set up a unified network of contacts and professional advice for the local community.
Debra said: “We want to show that people with dementia can live well both in the community and in care homes and we are offering support to both sufferers and families.
“In Hunstanton we have just two specialist Dementia Care Homes in Somerset Villa and Norfolk Lodge but all the homes have some dementia clients, and we have to realise that the need for dementia awareness is increasing all the time.”
The deputy lieutenant of Norfolk, Peter Wilson, told the 50-strong audience that he had a personal interest in dementia as his mother lived with it for the last nine years of her life.
He said: “This part of Norfolk is ageing faster than the rest of the UK so we are especially vulnerable to greater numbers of people developing dementia within the next five to 15 years, and in launching this new group today our entire society will be grateful as you advise, work and mentor those who are affected.”
In his address, NSDA Director Willie Cruikshank reported that dementia is very complicated with 126 diseases that lead to dementia of which about 50 per cent are via Alzheimer’s disease.
He said: “We are an ageing population. In 1958 the Queen sent out 352 telegrams to centenarians. Last year there were over 13,500 telegrams to people celebrating their 100th.
“We’ve become great at extending life but not so good at adding life to years, and that is what we are here for today.”
Mr Cruikshank described the work of the NSDA dementia care coaching learning programme that has helped 150 care professionals coach 30,000 people in Norfolk and Suffolk to understand dementia better, and how to look after people as the condition progresses.
He went on to say that Prime Minister David Cameron has acknowledged that “dementia is the greatest health and social care crisis we face”.
County councillor Richard Bird said: “People retire to the seaside and in my division there are over 6,000 people of which 40 per cent are in the 65 to 75 year age group.
“We know that one in three of them will develop dementia within 10 years and we must plan for their needs now.
“This means more specialist care homes, staff and training and more community-based carers. The county council is currently spending between three and four million pounds a year taking dementia sufferers outside the county due to the lack of facilities locally, but this of course is not the greatest cost.
“I am concerned about the toll this takes on elderly sufferers, their families, friends and relatives.”
Before lunch, provided free of charge by the care homes, practical advice and local contacts were shared by NSDA co-ordinator Claire Gilbert and West Norfolk Council’s careline community service manager Emma Boore, who said that her team works closely with the Care Commissioning Group and the West Norfolk Dementia Forum offering a home adaptations service for the over 65s.
The next meeting has been arranged for November 1 at St Edmund’s Church Hall 11am-1pm. For more information, call Debra on 01485 535320.