International Masterclass on Dementia Care, Design and Ageing at the University of Stirling on 15th May 2019
In 2019 I attended the DSDC (Dementia Services Development Centre) event at the University of Stirling with the purpose of building on the knowledge I gained from attending the DSDC’s Intersection of Dementia + Design 2 day course the previous year.
The stand out speaker for most of us was a gentleman called Ian Sloan. Ian’s career was in banking, pensions and investments where he relied on his memory. He retired in 2005 after suffering a stroke and dedicated himself to fighting the consequences of this which included a significant loss of hearing, speech and mobility. In 2013 he was diagnosed with vascular dementia, which he told us hit him particularly hard because it wasn’t something he could fight against in the same way. In his words he pretty much gave up, his wife had to leave her job to look after him full time and he was happy to let her do so and take over all responsibilities. Ian lost his confidence, they stopped socialising, lost the ability to know what each other was thinking and feeling and he got to the point where he wouldn’t leave the house.
Last April his wife had the opportunity to attend a DSDC workshop which Ian describes as life changing for both of them. On her return they sat down and made a plan of action, applying the things that she had learnt, many of which were based on the key principles of dementia friendly design — these included having a tree cut down in their garden to allow more natural light into their home, de-cluttering, changing the interior colour scheme to create a sense of calm and the creation of a den for Ian allowing him to retreat to his own personal space when he felt he needed to.
Ian told us of how they both started to feel the benefits immediately which over time has allowed him to become more active and reduce the pressure on his wife. He now helps with housework, choices for food and prepping for their tea. They both go out to the supermarket (avoiding busy times), Ian is happy to have time on his own at home allowing his wife much needed respite and slowly they have rebuilt a social life. Significantly as a way of him building up to traveling up to Stirling from Cumbria to take part in the event, they have also started to take holidays.
“Without the help we received from the DSDC my life would not have been worth living”
Ian’s vision is that the workshops be rolled out across the UK and he has committed himself to campaigning for this to happen for as long as he is able to do so.
First published on Sarah’s Notebook | 16th May 2019