Carer, 80, tells how ‘dementia friendly’ community has improved her life

Redcar and Cleveland Council Dementia Friendly Awards at the Heart in Redcar. Photograph: Stuart Boulton.

An 80-year-old carer has told how support in the community for people living with dementia and their families has improved her quality of life.

Chris Crosby, 80, of Ormesby, told of her experiences at Redcar and Cleveland’s first Dementia Friendly certificate awards.

Redcar and Cleveland became one of just a handful of ‘dementia friendly’ areas in the country last May.

Already more than 45 businesses and other organisations have signed up to becoming more supportive of people with dementia with more than 200 people accessing training by the Alzheimer’s Society to become ‘dementia friends’ and ‘dementia champions’.

The project aims to ensure that people living with dementia and their carers can remain active and included in their communities.

Certificates were handed out at a special ceremony at the Redcar & Cleveland Leisure and Community Heart on Thursday 19 September.

Mrs Crosby, a great great grandmother, attended as a guest and sat on a table with Santander Bank managers who have committed to ensuring 264 staff across the North East are trained to become ‘dementia friends’.

Explaining that she is a full-time carer to a loved one with dementia, she said: “It becomes hard to go out and we were absolutely vegetating, just staying in and watching television.

“Then we decided to go to a ‘sing-along’ at our library and since then we have just blossomed. We do table tennis and the doctor even got us to the gym and we have more friends, everything. We do so much now and it has been an amazing experience.

“When we go to the shops we find people are becoming more understanding, for example they’ve started to do ‘slow lane’ times at the supermarket and you can sit down. It makes life a lot easier.”

Leader of the Council, Councillor Sue Jeffrey, spoke at the ceremony.

She said: “It can become very difficult for people living with dementia and their carers to do the normal everyday things that we take for granted, such as going to the shops or out for a coffee.

Redcar and Cleveland Council Dementia Friendly Awards at the Heart in Redcar. Photograph: Stuart Boulton.

“The more we all understand the impact of dementia the more of a difference we can make and the fact that all of you have got involved is great. Today is to say, ‘thank you’ to all of you.”

Attendees heard how Tesco Redcar had become involved after a man living on his own with Alzheimer’s visited the supermarket every day, sometimes distressed, for help getting his mobile phone charged so he could call his daughter.

Now the supermarket has a ‘slow checkout’ every Tuesday and has so far trained 40% of all staff to be dementia friendly.

The first pub in the borough to become dementia friendly is The Cleveland Bay in Redcar.

Natasha Judge, Development and Delivery Manager at Healthwatch South Tees, which aims to give people using health and social care a voice, attended the event.

She said: “It’s still early days to know the impact out there in the community, but you can tell the enthusiasm to really improve the area for people living with dementia and their families is there and we’re delighted to be actively involved.”

Dementia Friendly Redcar and Cleveland is led by the Council’s Health Improvement Team with support from a wide range of partners, including the Ageing Well Action Alliance and Alzheimer’s Society which developed the Dementia Friends awareness programme.

Other business and community organisations to receive dementia friendly certificates included: Anchor Supported Housing, Redcar and Cleveland Business Centres, Avenue Veterinary Surgery, Barclays Bank Redcar, Guisborough and Saltburn, Carers Together, Coast & Country Housing, Footprints in the Community, Macks Solicitors, Marks and Spencer Guisborough, Meadowvale Home Care, No 30 Westgate Guisborough, Anna Turley MP’s Office, Redcar and Cleveland Voluntary Development Agency, Saabat Gallery in South Bank, Stanway and Garnett Funeral Directors, 25K, Tuned in!, Co-op Loftus, Whippet Up CIC (a Saltburn entertainment company) and Yorkshire Bank Eston.