My View, Dr David Crichton: Doncaster becoming more dementia friendly

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Doncaster continues its progress to be a Dementia Friendly borough and many individuals, organisations and businesses are playing their part in making it happen.

It’s a combined effort to raise awareness of people with memory problems and increase public understanding of how we can help those who have been diagnosed with the disease. The campaign is driven by the local NHS and Doncaster Council, but with countless others all doing their bit, from fish and chip shops to the popular Yorkshire Wildlife Park.

It’s a fast growing movement. More than 16,000 Doncastrians are now Dementia Friends and nearly 100 local businesses have joined the town’s Dementia Action Alliance to help make life easier for those who have been diagnosed.

Last week I found out about one local business that is doing some excellent work as Christmas draws near. This time of year can be stressful for many of us, but for some people with dementia and other neurological conditions, simply trawling through shops looking for a variety of presents can be a daunting task.

High street chain Lush, which sells handmade cosmetics, has become the first in the Frenchgate Centre to introduce something called ‘Slow Shopping’. Every Monday from 5.30 to 6.30pm the store opens exclusively for those who need more time to shop and some space to take time and think. It’s aimed at people who have dementia, or anyone with communication or literacy difficulties.

Staff turn off the music to create a calm environment, put out chairs for people to sit on in between shopping to stop them wandering off and cover all mirrors in the store, as many people with dementia can become anxious if they see their own reflection.

Sales assistant Jacqueline Poornomansy, from Warmsworth, is one of those behind the scheme. She has a personal interest, as her dad Eric worked as a nurse at Tickhill Road Hospital, caring for people with dementia.

Shopping is an essential part of our lives, involving meeting people, exercise, financial awareness and being out in the everyday world. But it can be challenging for those who have dementia and their carers.

Wendy Sharps, from Conisbrough, is welcoming the scheme and hopes others will follow Lush’s lead. Now aged 47, Wendy was diagnosed with young onset of dementia when she was just 40, though she started experiencing the symptoms five years earlier. She is one of over 100 Doncaster people who have been diagnosed with young onset of dementia.

Currently 2,702 people have been diagnosed with dementia but we expect for a borough of Doncaster’s size that a further 889 will have the disease but have not yet been diagnosed. That’s a local diagnosis rate of 75.2 per cent compared to 67.7 per cent nationally.

· Slow Shopping is a social movement founded by Katherine Vero. You can find out more at www.slowshopping.org.uk. Lush’s special opening runs until Monday December 12, 2016.