This week marks Dementia Action Week; a national campaign that encourages people to come together and take small actions that will make a huge difference to people living with dementia.
Alan Hewitt explains his experience of the hospice as he received support from Admiral Nurse Wendy Mountford, and also his involvement with various initiatives to promote understanding of the disease in the community:
“There’s never a good time to receive a cancer diagnosis. However, in my case, my battle against bowel cancer couldn’t have been more poorly timed as it coincided with the rapid advancement of my wife Ann’s dementia.
For several years prior, I had cared for Ann at home.
My cancer was caught early thankfully, but it was still a long road to recovery which involved a lengthy hospital stay. During this time, I was unable to care for Ann so she was looked after at Bradwell Hall Nursing Home.
It took a while for me to be back on my feet again but when I could finally get out and about, I attended a Carer Café ran by Approach, a charity that delivers a wide variety of services to support the needs of people with dementia, also offering support to their carers. It was here that I met Wendy Mountford, Dougie Mac’s Admiral Nurse – a specialist dementia nurse giving expert practical, clinical and emotional support to families living with dementia.
Wendy had so much experience with dementia and was able to offer so much insight into the condition; something that had been completely lacking for both Ann and I when we received the diagnosis.
I’d built a great affinity with Wendy so I asked the Manager of the Bradwell Nursing Home wing that Ann was in to get in touch with Wendy to see how she could support us going forward.
Unfortunately from this point, Ann started to deteriorate rapidly and just hours after Wendy had met her for just the second time on 12th September 2017, she passed away peacefully.
However, Wendy remained close and visited me at home to see how I was getting on and to give me help and advice to manage the bereavement. She was always available to lend a listening ear and she made the things that were bearing down on me easier to deal with.
Wendy invited me to get involved with a number of hospice initiatives so that I could influence dementia care in the community and work to improve it, and also to help with my bereavement journey.
I’m now in the Steering Group for the Dougie Mac Admiral Nurse services meaning that I am involved in the hospice’s strategy.
I also attend the hospice’s Advance Care Planning focus group along with other carers, Social Workers and Wendy to discuss what is in place and how we can best facilitate patient’s wishes as they approach the end of their life.
Earlier this year, I was honoured to have been invited to attend the ‘Time for a Cuppa’ event at Dougie Mac in support of the hospice in conjunction with Dementia UK. I made up one half of the judging panel and got to sample so many amazing homemade cakes for the bake-off.
In addition, I have become a Dementia Friend Champion to encourage others to make a positive difference to people living with dementia. As part of this role, I’ll be helping Wendy deliver Tier 2 Dementia training at the Hospice which will prove invaluable for staff and volunteers and provide a carer perspective of living with dementia.
Being involved in these initiatives is great; I get to give back to the hospice that supported me in hard times whilst also actively working towards a better understanding of Dementia in the community. Going from being a carer around the clock to not having Ann around anymore has been a difficult loss to adjust to, but the involvement I’ve had with Wendy and Dougie Mac has given me real purpose.”