In the UK there are 850,000 people living with dementia. It is estimated that two thirds of people with dementia are living at home and are likely to be looked after by an unpaid family carer. Right now there are approximately 670,000 unpaid family members caring for somebody with dementia, yet families are often not given the information and skills they need to support them in their caring role.
A lack of knowledge and understanding of dementia can lead to difficulties for the carer and the relationship with the person they love and are caring for. Many people in a caring role can face isolation, frustration, poor physical health and depression, stress and anxiety. Over 80% of carers feel that caring has a negative impact on their physical and mental health (Carers Week 2012).
Research shows that getting outside and connecting with nature increases the well being of people living with dementia and their carers. This leads to improved emotional and physical health, better social connections, reduced isolation, better memory, attention and even a delay in the progression of dementia itself. Yet many people with dementia face barriers to accessing these benefits. Our own research shows that only 20% of people living with dementia believe their dementia is a barrier to participating in outdoor activities, yet 83% of carers believe it is. (Is it nice outside?).
Increasing the skills and understanding of family carers can help remove the barriers that people with dementia face. We believe empowering family carers to think differently about dementia and supporting them with effective training makes it possible to live positively with dementia, both for the person with the condition and their families. Every family carer should have the opportunity to be trained in dementia support which is why we offer FREE positive and inspirational events to family carers supporting someone living with dementia.
In each of the sessions, not only do the family carers receive high quality training from our experienced team, but they also get support from a partner organisation with details on local and national support services for them to access after the events, so the support can be on-going.
Family carers also get to chat to other people in similar situations and we support them to develop an action plan so the benefits of the training are longer lasting.
But what are these benefits? And why are these events so successful?
We have evaluated the benefits and the impact of our family carer events so that we can improve on them and monitor their effectiveness. We have been overwhelmed by the positive response to the events and the difference they are making. The evaluation has shown that the events have improved the quality of life, health and wellbeing for both the person with dementia and the carer themselves.
Following the events family carers have reported:
Family Carers gave us some invaluable feedback as part of our evaluation. Many carers went away from the event feeling much more positive with their situation saying,
‘I realised there’s a life after dementia’
‘I left the venue feeling very positive’ and
‘I feel so much more positive leaving the session then when I walked through the door’.
As a result of the training family carers have told us they intend to take positive action after the event including,
‘Not being so hard on myself’ and ‘feeling less guilty’.
‘Being more active & turn the telly off’
‘Getting outdoors more’
‘Take Mum out, even if just for 10 mins’
‘Getting out more where nature is’
‘Look at a holiday for my Mother, who has dementia’
‘Get a bird feeder for the balcony’
‘Go for walks together’ and
‘Trying to get someone to take mum for a walk occasionally instead of just having coffee with her’
Importantly, the family carers also reported feeling more empowered to look after themselves. They made a list of actions for the ways they could do this, which included,
‘Making sure I get half an hour to myself’,
‘Be kind to myself’
‘Building networks of support’
‘Possibly go to Carer’s group’
‘Ask for more help’
‘Encourage Dad’s wife to join a support group – go with her if necessary.
Many who experience our support feel that the positive nature is uplifting and go away feeling much more positive with their situation. “I feel so much more positive leaving the session then when I walked through the door” “It’s made me feel less alone and more optimistic on this journey.”
Sharing with others in the same situation made them feel less isolated: “My thoughts and worries are normal”, “I’m not the only one”, “Helps you realise you are not on your own” and “Others are experiencing difficulties too!”
The evidence speaks for itself. These events are making a big impact on the lives of people living with dementia. Family Carers feel empowered and able to make the changes necessary to improve the lives of their loved ones living with the condition. If you are a family carer for someone living with dementia, come along to one of our events, and receive the benefits for yourself.
As a charity, all our work is dependent on people like you. Do you want to want to help people with dementia get to live well? Why not consider getting involved with us? Volunteer on our of our supported dementia holidays. Hold a fundraising event for us. Do a sponsored challenge, or even leave a gift in your will. There are lots of fun ways to support our us to continue to support people living with dementia.