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Honiton: A caring town

PUBLISHED: 09:00 15 March 2014

Distant Coastline by Judy Hempstead

Distant Coastline by Judy Hempstead

Nigel Cheffers-Heard 2013

An art exhibition and auction will support Honiton’s aim to become a dementia-friendly town, writes Martin Staniforth

Mum resting her eyes by Jenni DuttonMum resting her eyes by Jenni Dutton

As we get older, it can get harder to remember what we did a few minutes ago. Yet we can have such clarity about what we did decades ago. This is just one of the issues faced by those going through dementia - a serious loss of brain function in a previously unimpaired person.

That’s why in dementia support work, carers often try and use triggers to remind people about the way life used to be, be that with photographs, songs, catch-phrases or photos of old domestic implements.

This has inspired Recollection, an exhibition and art auction raising funds for three Honiton-based charities.

Why? It’s all about helping to make a dementia-friendly town. So what does this actually mean?

'Memory tubes' by Jo Saurin'Memory tubes' by Jo Saurin

Take an example. Mary (not her real name) has lived in Honiton for many years and used to work in an office before her dementia made it difficult for her to keep focussed and accurate. She still likes to go out to the shops.

Recently she went into one retailer, chose her items and went to the checkout. Once they’d been run through the till, she realised that she had forgotten her money. The new cashier, still in his first week, fumbled and became a bit embarrassed. The man in the queue behind Mary looked disgruntled and made no effort to disguise his harrumphing. All this agitated Mary, making the cashier more embarrassed and the man more harrumphic. Fortunately a more senior cashier came over, calmed things down, made Mary feel safe and the world continued to turn without mishap. At least for a few moments.

It could all have been very different. With a bit of dementia awareness-raising, the two witnesses might have had more understanding as to what was going on for Mary, and how they could reassure her.

Becoming a dementia-friendly town is about creating a culture within communities that gives a voice to those with dementia, including their carers, and supports them to live independently and well.

A challenge

Dementia is on the rise and awareness is rising too

There are over 800,000 people directly affected by dementia in the UK, along with their family members. And the proportion of the population affected is increasing as we live longer. The impact on spouses, family and friends can be just as devastating leading to loneliness, growing isolation and exhaustion. Many of us will be touched by dementia in some way.

Recognising the enormity of these issues, the Prime Minister launched the “Challenge on Dementia” in March 2012. This includes an ambition to create communities that work together to help people live well with dementia.

Devon has over 50 Memory Cafés, offering support to those living with dementia and their carers, especially during the early stages of this condition. You can find your nearest café here: www.memorycafes.org.uk

By increasing awareness and understanding, we can reduce social isolation and tackle the significant issue of the stigma currently associated with the term ‘dementia’

Recollection:

"Carers often try and use triggers to remind people about the way life used to be"

The ‘Recollection’ exhibition at the Thelma Hulbert gallery and online

Around 50 artists, mostly Devon-based, have kindly donated work for auction on the theme of ‘recollection’. Oil painters and print-makers, including prestigious names such as Alan Cotton and Jenni Dutton, have contributed a wide variety of styles.

The exhibition runs from March 15th – April 19th, culminating in the auction on Friday 25 April. You can view the artworks online and place bids. To receive a catalogue by post, please request one by emailing info@chilcottsauctioneers.co.uk Proceeds will be split between the Honiton Memory Café, The Honiton Hospital League of Friends and the Thelma Hulbert gallery’s education programme. Why not take a peek and see if you can make your purchase mean so much more to these charities?

This article was first published in the March issue of Devon Life. To get the magazine delivered every month to your home, subscribe at www.subscriptionsave.co.uk/dev or call 08448484217

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