Dementia Adventure's Family Carers Seminar: A team member's perspective
At Dementia Adventure we strongly believe that all our staff should have a real understanding of what living with dementia is like. We are well known for our excellent holidays and short breaks but we also deliver extremely effective and successful training too.
Jules Loveland, our communications assistant, therefore recently attended one of training sessions in order to learn more. This is her story.
"I realised the best way to understand living with dementia was to receive expert training and spend time with people for whom dementia is a daily reality. In September I attended a key piece of our training - our Family Carers Seminar. These seminars are vitally important to our understanding of people living with dementia and their relationships with carers.
The session was delivered at a care home in Essex. As the training started the first thing that struck me was how many people had attended the session. The room was full! I was proud that Dementia Adventure is able to support so many people.
In just one afternoon we covered a very comprehensive list of subjects but in a way that felt real and accessible. We covered everything from neuroscience to practical solutions to every day problems but we weren't presented with technical jargon, unfeeling science or patronising advice. The training was empowering and empathetic.
The seminar included:
● What is dementia and how can people live well with dementia?
● How dementia affects communication and how to effectively interact andcommunicate with people living with dementia.
● Some of the difficulties experienced with senses and perception including possiblesolutions to supporting and adapting activities and the environments they take placein.
● The benefits of physical activity, outdoor activity and positive risk taking.
● We looked at local help and support that is available - including further learningresources.
● We allowed time for carers to ask questions.
I have a background in mental health support - so the science behind what happens in the brain was both interesting and upsetting in equal measure. I was particularly struck when we were asked what percentage of dementia we felt was hereditary. Like most others in the room, I thought the percentage would be high, but I was surprised by what I learnt. There's a lot of research being done in this area and statistics vary but some research places the risk of getting dementia as low as 25% 'genetically influenced' and 75% 'influenced by lifestyle factors'. I was hearing that we can help reduce the risk of dementia with changes to our lifestyles. That was very interesting.
Our trainer, Neil Mapes (Director of Dementia Adventure) asked the question"who knows how to prevent heart disease or a stroke?"- all the hands went up. He then asked,"who knows how to prevent dementia?"- nobody knew. I realised that even though excellent work is being done, there is still so much more to come. What a privilege to be part of it with Dementia Adventure.
A personal highlight for me was a conversation I had during the break with one of the family carers. The lady I spoke to had a husband with dementia. He was diagnosed after a stroke six years ago. After a few years caring for him at home, he sadly received further diagnosis of a brain tumour and was now in palliative care. She was very open about her struggle with his initial diagnosis and how it had affected their marriage and their relationships with others. She had had to give up a job she loved to care for her husband and they became isolated as friends started to drift away - no longer knowing how to relate to her and her husband. This particularly moved me as we are working hard to reduce the stigma and dispel myths about dementia. I was struck by her strength and joy, she wasn't at all bitter, just sad at what she had lost. Eventually she gained access to support and now the couple are enjoying life in a way they hadn't been able to for a long time. She has even gone back to working part-time which she was thrilled about. It was a humbling story and again reinforces to me that more of the right kind of support and information needs to be accessible to those who need it - which is why Dementia Adventure exists!
In one short afternoon I felt that people were empowered, encouraged, equipped and understood. It was a powerful session for the carers in so many ways but especially in highlighting the well-being benefits of nature and the outdoors. It certainly has had a lasting impact on me and I am extremely glad that I went."
We know that getting out in the fresh air and having a sense of adventure in our lives makes us feel better. For people who often spend much of their time indoors it can be doubly beneficial, yet many people living with dementia, whether in care or in their own home, can face barriers to accessing these benefits. Dementia Adventure helps to negotiate these barriers, through training. Delegates are equipped with evidence; practical skills and confidence to help people living with dementia retain a sense of adventure in their lives.
Its team of qualified and experienced trainers deliver a range of training and bespoke support. They have enabled carers, staff, managers and volunteers from leading conservation charities, care home providers, local authorities, housing associations and other organisations across the UK help people live better with dementia. If you could benefit from some of their training please visit their website: www.dementiaadventure.co.uk/training-and-support