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Alzheimer's Society with branches in Maidstone and Tonbridge calls for people with dementia to support NHS students

A charity is calling for the help of people living with dementia to support Kent's medical professionals of tomorrow.

The Alzheimer's Society, which has offices in Maidstone and Tonbridge, is connecting Kent's medical students with people living with the disease so they can better understand the condition.

Dave Dodd says his wife Jan lives with dementia as much as he does
Dave Dodd says his wife Jan lives with dementia as much as he does

The project, dubbed 'Time for Dementia', was created to address the criticism that some doctors and GPs do not offer the support needed for people who have Alzheimer's disease.

Although the scheme has been called a success, there are not enough families currently signed up to the project for the students to work with.

Dr Stephanie Daly, programme lead for the project, is urging more people living with the condition to come forward and support the charity.

She said: "Often people with dementia and their carers describe their experiences with healthcare professionals and healthcare systems as not being particularly good.

"It's the people living with the condition who are essentially our experts, they are the best informed to convey to undergraduate healthcare students what it's like to live with the condition."

Dr Stephanie Daly works with people living with dementia
Dr Stephanie Daly works with people living with dementia

Dave Dodd, 69, from Churchfields, West Malling, was diagnosed with early onset dementia at the age of 65.

He and his wife Jan decided to support the project so they could be part of improving the way people with dementia are treated by medical staff.

He said: "I just live with it and it's not a problem. Where it is a problem is when I go to see my doctor, because my doctor doesn't understand."

He added: "I've got Alzheimer's, there is no cure, so I'm doomed...so I will stand up and talk to anybody who will listen to me."

Future doctors and nurses studying at the University of Greenwich's Medway campus have visited Mr and Mrs Dodd in their home to try to understand what it is like to live with the condition.

"I need to speak slowly and clearly, and I do struggle with trying to find words and things" - Dave Dodd

Mr Dodd said doctors need to understand the differences between early onset dementia and more aggressive forms of the disease.

The 69-year-old said: "I need to speak slowly and clearly, and I do struggle with trying to find words and things."

Dementia can take on many forms, including changes in personality and mood to their ability to communicate and think.

Medical students from Canterbury Christ Church University have also been involved in the programme.

According to Lauren Wonnacott, project manager for 'Time for Dementia,' there are more than 480 students in Kent starting the programme each year in the county.

"People with dementia are all individuals, they're all unique and dementia affects everyone in a very unique way" - Lauren Wonnacott

She said: "Some students are quite surprised at how well people can live with dementia, and that's something we really want to champion.

"People with dementia are all individuals, they're all unique and dementia affects everyone in a very unique way."

Other projects in Kent are looking to bring people living with the condition together.

The Memory Cafe in Cranbrook was set up for people with Alzheimer's to listen to music and socialise together.

Studies by the Alzheimer's Society suggest music has the ability to open up memory pathways for people suffering with dementia.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent


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