Last night, our very own Tommy Whitelaw was on Scotland Tonight to mark World Alzheimer’s Day, and was joined by Professor June Andrews, Director of the Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) at the University of Stirling. They were discussing the findings of new research commissioned by Alzheimer’s Research UK, which found that one in three people born in 2015 will develop dementia. You can watch the film here.
Tommy spoke of his experiences as a full time carer for his late mum, Joan, who had vascular dementia. Joan was a devoted mother and wife, who sadly passed away 3 years ago today. Tommy now tours the country as part of the You Can Make a Difference campaign in order to share their experiences and those of people who have engaged with the project, telling the stories of people, not of patients, celebrating their lives and love stories.
Joan and Tommy’s story has inspired others to share theirs, and yet more to pledge to make sure the love story continues. “Too often the love story becomes a tragedy. You have the power to keep the love story going” says Tommy.
The team have now gathered over 5000 pledges from people across the UK who have made a personal commitment to make a difference in the lives of people with dementia, their families and carers. Often, these pledges are simple, such as “I pledge to see the person, not the illness” or “I pledge to find out what matters to the people I work with”, but these changes form part of the cultural, transformational change required to make sure that people are consistently treated with dignity and respect, no matter where they are. ‘Pledge trees’ have been appearing in hospitals, residential care homes and universities across the country and are being embedded in practice, changing hearts and minds in the process.
Dementia Carer Voices have engaged with an estimated 30,000 people as part of the 300 talk tour, and are using this considerable outreach to ensure that people are continuously given opportunities to influence not just their own practice but the wider health and social care system. The team are asking health and social care professionals, students, carers, people living with dementia and the wider public to have their say on the future of health and social care as part of the Scottish Government’s National Conversation on Creating a Healthier Scotland. This aims to find out what matters to people and how to support people to live healthier lives. This is an important opportunity shape the future of health and social care, and Dementia Carer Voices will work to ensure that the voices of people living with dementia, their families and carers are heard loud and clear.
We would like to thank each and every one of you who have come to a talk, made a pledge, read the blog, showed your support on twitter and importantly made a difference in the lives of people with dementia and their carers. We would also like to celebrate the life of Joan Whitelaw, and the inspiring legacy that remains to this day. One person really can make a difference.