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RotaryThe Challenge of Dementia No. 3

In my first two articles I have stressed the need to focus on the positive for those who have been dealt the dementia card.

I want to focus on Sheila Wainwright, a remarkable lady from Wakefield whom I met recently. Sheila told me how much she suffered seeing the husband she loved turn into an aggressive stranger.

I suffered mental pain as the man I loved so dearly locked me out of the house, tried to push me downstairs and would have killed me had he not finally been sectioned because of his uncontrolled violence”.

Sheila, a retired teacher, quietly spoken and intelligent, has turned the negative into a positive. Despite bearing the scars of her experience she has determination to help others. She cared for her husband, John for four years while he battled with dementia - but says she could not have coped without the help of an Admiral nurse.

“At my lowest ebb someone suggested I ring an Admiral Nurse

“I firmly believe the nurse, who talked to me for an hour on the phone, saved my life. I was ready to put John in my car and drive us both over the nearest cliff, because it seemed the only way I could deal with our mutual pain. The Admiral Nurse brought me back from the edge. His professional skills, as a trained mental health nurse, his compassion and his understanding were life saving.”

Many would think that the last thing Sheila needed after losing her husband was to focus on Dementia Support - but I have been amazed by so many similar examples of those touched by this disease becoming passionate about easing the journey of others. She decided to start raising money for Admiral Nurses in her community of Wakefield.

Although the Dementia UK helpline (0800 888 6678) provides an Admiral Nurse at the end of the phone, it would be so much better if one nurse were available for face to face support.

Since her husband died six years ago, Sheila has raised thousands of pounds and persuaded the South West Yorkshire NHS Foundation Trust to take on two community Admiral Nurses, while a third is now employed by Wakefield Hospice.

The photograph shows Sheila with one of the robotic cats who appear to help those whose communication skills have been reduced by their dementia. The cats blink, purr and raise their paws and seem to have a calming effect. Sheila uses one of them to add a lighted hearted aspect to the inspiring talks she gives on how life with dementia can be so much more bearable with the right support.

I have joined a fundraising group in Charnwood who have already raised £60,000 for a community Admiral Nurse. In south Leicestershire we need more than one nurse if people in our area are to benefit.

I am encouraging fundraising in our area. For example, the Burton Overy Christmas Tree Festival has chosen Admiral Nurses for Leicestershire as their nominated charity. Central England Co-op are supporting Dementia UK , the body which trains and places Admiral Nurses. So, do give them your loose change. Details are on their website. (www.dementiauk.org/get-support/admiral-nursing). If you wish to contribute to my initiative to improve our society’s approach to, and support of, those with Dementia please contact me on- grahamapt@btinternet.com.

Click here to read more articles in the series 'The Challenge of Dementia' by Graham Thompson

Graham Thompson
Kibworth & Fleckney Rotary
Issue 406
November 2018

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