The University of Glasgow Dementia Society recently held a Dementia Friends Session which aimed to dispel negative stereotypes and raise awareness and understanding of the disorder. Over 100 students attended the workshop.
The interactive information session was led by Anne McWhinnie, who coordinates the Dementia Friends programme and works at Alzheimer Scotland. Alzheimer Scotland work in partnership with the society throughout the year.
The session was split into two halves. The first half focused on the positive and negative perceptions of dementia and the impact of negative language around those with the disorder. The interactive activities included word games used to identify and amend negative word associations with dementia.
Throughout the session, McWhinnie aimed to address and debunk myths around the disorder such as the false idea that it is a normal consequence of aging. The audience were surprised to learn that over 100 types of dementia exist, although primarily there are five kinds which are the most common.
Over 90,000 people in Scotland live with dementia. McWhinnie discussed the concerns expressed by the World Health Organisation that this figure could double in the next ten to fifteen years. This is attributed to people living longer, improvements in the diagnosis process and the growing binge-drinking culture in the UK and beyond.
McWhinnie noted that improvements in the diagnosis process are especially helpful in Scotland, as each patient with dementia is assigned a post-diagnosis professional for one year who will help to educate the family on the disorder and help the patient make plans for the future.
The importance of individuality was discussed in the workshop as dementia will affect each person in a unique way. McWhinnie pressed the importance of being mindful of the reality of people living with dementia and approaching any treatment with sensitivity, saying: “It’s all these small things which can make a huge difference to somebody.”
President of the University of Glasgow Dementia Society, Nat Quail, said: “We handed out 122 Dementia Friend certificates and badges to students from a variety of degree courses tonight, which was fantastic! A massive thanks has to go to everyone who advertised the event, including committee members and university staff. Anne from Alzheimer Scotland led a very thought-provoking session that helped students to understand what it is like to live with dementia.
“Many of the students who attended will go on to have jobs in the healthcare sector and so this will hopefully have a great impact on how they care for individuals with dementia. With over 90,000 people in Scotland currently living with dementia, everyone in attendance will be able to have a positive impact in the day-to-day lives of these individuals.
“Please like UofG Dementia Society Facebook page for future events and contact us if you would like to get involved! You can become a Dementia Friend online by visiting the Dementia Friends Scotland website.”
The Dementia Friends scheme was established in 2014 and students can join Alzheimer Scotland for free.
The society will be fundraising alongside Alzheimer Scotland in November and December at Glasgow Fort.