After completing a Master’s Degree in Dementia Care at university, director and co-ordinator of Dementia Support Sally Ferris decided to set up the ‘community-interest and not-for-profit company’. The chief reason: Manchester’s “need for more regular therapeutic support and activity groups for people with dementia”, she told TNT.
The word dementia describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease or a series of strokes.
With vast amount of experience and knowledge of the illness, Sally started Dementia Support in September 2014. Often the case with dementia sufferers, people withdraw from social activities as they find them difficult. “Some people lose the confidence to go out and navigate within the community” she said.
Sally’s organisation offers support groups whereby sufferers who have just been diagnosed with the terrible illness, can come for games, activities and support.
“Knowing that there are people that understand our difficulties and share them, is important. That when we go there, we don’t feel judged by anybody”, she explained.
With her organisation, those initial stages of the awful illness will be made lighter and manageable, with the right support. Sally said, “Being around people going through the same thing, can just boost your self-esteem and make you feel a bit better. And I also believe that giving people opportunities to do the activities that they’d stopped doing, is important”.
Whilst there are day centres available in Manchester for people suffering from Dementia, those spaces might be a disempowering experience for sufferers. “We have our groups available for people soon after they’ve been diagnosed to help them to stay active and help them stay sociable, and later on – as the illness progresses – they might need a day centre”.
One of the biggest strains to a family is when a member is diagnosed with the illness but does not want to reason or accept help that Day Centres offer. This is where Dementia Support fits into the puzzle.
Although mainly self-funded, Dementia Support has received bits of funding from The Big Lottery Fund, Adactus Housing Association and The Royal Brewery Fund . Sally admits that the main challenge for her organisation is securing funding to carry on sterring her services ahead.
There is hope however because as part of the ‘Devolution Manchester’ strategy, Dementia United (a new initiative in Greater Manchester) is offering a grand plan for all the Greater Manchester authorities to deliver the same level of service to Dementia sufferers. “This should help Manchester because Salford and Stockport have much better established services”.
Whilst public awareness of the illness is growing, “stigma about the illness is still around, particularly in the South Asian community. Peer support groups provide a social return investment and prolonged well-being of the carer, whilst saving money with their low level preventative work”, Sally concluded.
TNT Health Yasin Chinembiri