WITH more than 50 million people currently living with dementia worldwide, and still no cure to date, organisations such as Dementia Action Alliance and Chrysalis at Tynedale are working to make the Tyne Valley a better place for those affected by the illness.

Between 20 to 26 local dementia charities and organisations across Tynedale have taken part in a national scheme called Dementia Action Week, running from May 20-26, to raise awareness and start a dialogue about the disease, alongside taking action to make our communities safer for those with dementia by hosting dementia friendly events.

Hexham film maker Peter Woods, the man behind Hexham TV, showcased his film documentary, A Space at the Table, which tells the story of those who care for loved ones with dementia, and the everyday rewards and struggles which they are dealt.

Participants in the film were carers who were part of Dry Water Art Centres flagship dementia positive programme Curiosity Cafe, which brings both carers and those living with dementia together from across Tynedale to socialise and support each other.

All carers in the documentary were left anonymous, to ensure that they could speak freely and openly about their personal experiences.

“I was inspired to make the film, because whilst there are lots of fantastic resources to help those living with dementia, there is less help available for the partners who take on the role as carers,” said Peter.

“Life for these carers is completely turned on its head, and for all the joy which caring for a loved one brings, simple tasks become impossible such as leaving the house or attending social occasions, and often leaves them feeling as though they are prisoners in their own homes.”

Peter said in the future he aimed to show A Space at the Table widely to industry professionals within the health services, so the needs of carers could be better understood.

He said that from the point of view of the carers, two resources in particular were in demand in Tynedale. These included better out of hours and emergency care from social services and clearer and more regular communication about what services were available to them.

“No one knows that they will one day have to care for a partner with dementia so of course they are not immediately equipped with all the qualifications and skills needed for the job,” said Peter.

“They need to be pointed in the direction of help, and be made easily aware of what support is out there for them.”

In terms of what Tynedale could do to become more dementia friendly, Peter said better activities for people with early on-set dementia would be welcome.

“There is a gap in recreational services for younger people living with dementia who are at a different stage in their life to older people, and therefore have different needs.

“It would be great to see more out there to accommodate there interests.”

Aiming to bring information about dementia support directly to Northumberland is Tynedale Dementia Action Alliance (TDAA) which has created a booklet of more than 30 local activities and support services suitable for those with dementia and memory problems. The booklet was championed by lead secretary of the organisation and founder of the Singing for the Brain sessions run on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Society, Adele Kinsella.

An impressive five thousand booklets have been distributed to medical practices around West Northumberland, alongside a newly developed, handy electronic version of the literature available to download.

TDAA also hosted an event in aid of Dementia Action Week at Hexham Abbey called ‘Living Well in Tynedale’ which aimed to help people find out more about the activities, support and volunteering opportunities.

Tovertafel, also known as the magic table, is an interactive game specifically designed for those with moderate to severe stages of dementia.

A little box that can be mounted on the ceiling, Tovertafel has a built in projector, infrared sensors and a speaker, working together to project colourful games on to the table, stimulating both physical and cognitive activity and encouraging social interaction.

Dementia Support Haltwhistle invited audiences to a demonstration of Tovertafel, which they are currently fund-raising towards, to see how the game works in action at Haltwhistle Hospital Community Room.

For those interested in sports or show tunes, Chrysalis at Tynedale hosted two dementia friendly events – a basketball and athletics session adapted for all abilities and led by Smile through Sport, and a group singalong hosted by musician Ian Brown at Hexham’s Torch Centre.

Still to come this week, the Forum Cinema in Hexham will hold their first ever dementia friendly screening.

Choice of film is Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns, which will start at 2pm, with the sound turned down a notch, lights kept on low, and unallocated seating to allow people to come and go as they please. Although the event is designed to be suitable for people living with dementia and their carers, the event is open to anyone who would benefit from a relaxed cinema environment.

Hexham Community Centre has invited the public to a free Dementia Friends Information Session between 4pm and 5pm today, to discuss both the big and small ways in which communities can become dementia friendly, whilst a Alzheimer’s adviser will be available to answer your questions as part of Dementia Friendly Stocksfield’s Information Day tomorrow, running from 10am until 3pm at Boots at Branch End.

Not falling within Dementia Action Week, but a prominent future fund-raising event for the cause is the Queen’s Halls returning Art with Heart charity auction.

More than 80 national, international and local artists have donated 107 pieces of work to the fund-raiser, which recognises the therapeutic value of art-based activities for local people living with dementia and their families, with the goal of paying for a new artistic establishment. Bids can be made electronically at www.artwithheartauction.org until 9pm today.