South Antrim MLA Trevor Clarke met with Dementia NI officers and group members last week to learn about how the organisation is helping local people with dementia.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Clarke said: “It was good to hear first-hand from the some of the South Antrim group members how they depend on this organisation, which was only set up in January 2015 by five members living with dementia.
“I was taken back by how encouraging these individuals were as they talked about how each member supported each other through friendship and understanding, particularly when first diagnosed. What was most amazing about this organisation is it is led by individuals who live with dementia themselves, therefore they know exactly how everyone feels. They also continue to branch out to other constituencies in Northern Ireland by developing empowerment groups across the Province.”
Explaining the benefits of the group, Anne from Newtownabbey said: “The relief that there was someone out there to help and understand me was so overwhelming. I wasn’t alone anymore and that was such a fantastic feeling.”
Doreen from Crumlin added: “The Dementia NI group is very important. It gets me out of the house and gets me meeting with people. It’s great to get to share with others whatever you are doing, share your problems, share your experiences, share the craic. From that point of view, I look forward to it.”
John from Toome commented: “We have a very important job to do in challenging the stigma. While I have dementia, I can still do things for myself and make decisions; I just need society to allow me the time to do it in my own way.”
Mr Clarke added: “Their stories showed how important it is to have organisations such as Dementia NI, as they engage with various other organisations to inform them how to make their services, policies and practices more suitable for people who live with dementia. It is vital in our society, to be more aware of others, to let them have their voice heard, and remain an important part of our communities.”
The DUP man concluded: “Most of all it’s about raising awareness of dementia and making people aware that help is out there and they have more to give to their communities. If you would like to support people with dementia in Northern Ireland, to have their voices heard you can volunteer, promote, fundraise or donate.”