During next month we’ll be promoting our free service in support of Dementia Awareness Week.
Most of us know someone living with dementia. The disease affects one in three people over the age of 65 nationwide as well as about 40,000 people who are younger. Early last year Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire Council estimated that 5,000 people with dementia live in their local authority areas. Most have mild or moderate dementia while about 12% have severe dementia. More than three-quarters of people with dementia live in the community.
So the chances are you also know of relatives and friends looking after people with dementia. “They care for their loved ones with dementia but frequently don’t think of themselves as ‘carers’,” says Diane Whitmore, from Relate Bedfordshire and Luton. “Often they look after their partner over many years as the condition degenerates. It’s an expression of their love, even when their partner becomes almost unrecognisable from the person they once knew.”
Earlier this year the Relate team secured funding from three local family trusts to offer free counselling for people supporting loved ones with dementia in Bedfordshire.
Relate’s relationship counsellors know only too well how those who support a loved one with dementia see their relationship change over time, causing pressure and anxiety – and impacting on their own mental well-being and physical health.
“Worse still, they know there is no cure for dementia,” says Diane. “At first-hand, year-by-year, they see their loved one deteriorating as the disease affects cognitive processes, mobility and their personality and behaviour.
“We know that there are some things that can be done – singing and music have been found to help, reminiscing, socialising, some medications… but, sadly, it’s a progressive condition that also gradually takes its toll on people supporting those with dementia. On a rare occasion when they can get away we at Relate listen to their feelings and experiences and offer support through our counselling service.
“The extent of their loved ones’ dementia is not a criteria for taking up the free service – we know that dementia in all its 100 or more forms has different effects and may well progress from mild symptoms to severe over time,” says Diane. “At any stage those looking after people with dementia can take up the free counselling support we offer.”
Our confidential counselling for individuals, couples or families is offered face-to-face in several local community venues or by telephone or Skype. People supporting loved ones with dementia who wish to access the free service should contact our friendly appointments team by phoning 01234 356350 or emailing: email@example.com