Becoming a dementia friend changed my life

Posted on
Lauretta Osubor
Lauretta Osubor

By Lauretta Osubor

We all know what dementia is and what it does to a person. But if you are wondering what I am talking about, simply put, dementia is a term used for a range of diseases that affect the brain and it only gets worse with time.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines dementia as “a syndrome in which there is deterioration in memory, thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday activities”.

You are probably wondering “But why do I need to know about dementia? It’s not even a part of my course?” and, honestly, that was what I thought at first, until I got an email from the University’s Volunteering team, inviting me to be a part of a Dementia Friends Programme, which was scheduled for February 12.

Prior to that email, I hadn’t given much thought to dementia (I had always prayed to grow old without any health complications) but then I began to do more research and I started to look into what damage dementia actually does to a person and I was indeed surprised.

I had always thought that if I lived a healthy life, went to the gym at least twice every week, reduced the carbs and embraced more greens, limited my fizzy drinking habits and avoided smoking (never been a fan anyway) that I would still look ‘smoking hot’ when I am in my 60s and ultimately stop dementia, or any other old age disease for that matter, from adding me to its patients’ list.

Little did I know it didn’t work like that.

Mental Health Senior Lecturer at the University of Chester, Dean McShane, spoke on the Dementia Friends Programme and how it was set up to reduce the stigma and create awareness about the condition.

He said: “We were challenged to create one million dementia friends and currently we’re sitting on three million, so we’ve gone much farther than what the original goal was set up to be.”

Dean confirmed that the University alone has so far run 43 sessions in the last two years and has created 2,404 dementia friends. He also encouraged more staff and students to get involved, saying “the WHO is predicting that by 2022, we’re going to have one million people living with dementia in the UK and everyone will be affected by it.”

During the programme, I learned that, not only is dementia not preventable, but there is no known cure. I was also surprised to discover that around 50 million people around the world are currently living with dementia, according to the WHO. Alzheimer’s Research UK also records that 850,000 people are currently estimated to be living with dementia in the UK.

Right now, you are asking yourself “Will I get dementia when I am old?”

One thing is certain, dementia is not a part of the normal ageing process and it is not genetic. So, if any of your family members has suffered from dementia, that does not mean you will as well. 

The Dementia Friends programme changed my life. It made me more empathetic towards people living with Alzheimer’s disease and also gave me more reasons to keep doing good to everybody, because you never know what they are struggling with.