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Southampton researcher's mission to end stigma of dementia
A Southampton researcher has embarked on a mission to ditch the stigma surrounding dementia, an illness that affects 18,000 people in Hampshire.
Dr Ruth Bartlett from the University of Southampton has launched a pioneering learning pack that aims to change the way we view and speak about dementia and those diagnosed with it.
In collaboration with an artist from the University of Bradford, Caroline Hick, The No Limits Re-imagining Life with Dementia Educational Resource aims to start conversations about the strengths and hopes of men and women with the condition. With the use of picture postcards bearing slogans and a documentary film – all contributed by dementia activists – it shows that the illness does not mean all doom and gloom and that there is life once the condition has been confirmed.
Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council the free pack is for any individual or group with an interest in the illness or whose role it is to educate others about it.
It covers a range of topics from active citizenship and seeing dementia as a journey to end of life planning. Dr Bartlett said: “The aim of the original study was to challenge, inform and educate a wider community about the strengths and hopes of those living with dementia, including younger people.
“The word patient or sufferer is often used, for example, yet not everyone living with dementia is suffering or feels like a patient.
“Hopefully the stigma around the condition will begin to erode and people will be accept-ed as more of a regular person rather than just someone who is incapable of doing anything. We are providing another story about what it’s like to have dementia, a more hopeful story.
“When someone first receives the diagnosis it is very dramatic, shocking and stressful. However, people eventually get over that shock and settle into the illness and at that point that’s when I think people welcome the chance to be able to grow and develop as a person – they do not want to sit around and do nothing. They want to make the most of their lives before the illness really begins to take effect and by getting people to talk about the positive aspects, hopefully it will change people’s perceptions and allow them to do this.”
The next step for the project is to develop the learning pack for schools to help teachers educate the younger generation about the issues faced by those living with the disease.
To receive a pack or to find out more information email Dr Bartlett at R.L.Bartlett@soton.ac.uk.