Dispatches: “Mum, Dad, Alzheimers and Me”

"Mum, Dad, Alzheimers and Me"

Earlier this evening, Channel 4’s Dispatches presented ‘Mum, Dad, Alzheimers and Me’, an emotional and insightful documentary about the reality of living with and around Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is a subject close to many people’s hearts. Infact my family recently went through a very sad time – grieving a special person who was with us in body, but not in spirit. This is why this post is much longer than usual…

Telling the story of ex-GMTV presenter Fiona Phillips, who is now a carer for her father the documentary was very emotional and moving, and truly captured the issues facing many people living with people suffering from Dementia.

Shockingly, 80% of sufferers are dependent on their family. Sufferers are unable to do small, basic things we take for granted; withdrawing money from an ATM, using cutlery and turning on the television.

The programme highlighted a lack of consistency in the services that are provided for these people, describing them as “patchy” . “The system is confusing and doesn’t make sense”.

The carers are facing a day-to-day struggle, trying to help someone living a life that is “over and confused”. They also have to deal with the incompetence of companies who fail to re-direct mail of the sufferers who have died or moved to nursing homes!! Ridiculous.

For the people who can no longer read, photograph albums have replaced their books. Fiona’s experience even captured her making her father ‘address cards’ to carry around incase he got lost.

Visual Memories

Unpaid carers are saving the government 6 billion per year. This program showed that sadly carers are left full of emotion years and years later. “Someone from high up has to realise there is something missing…they have to LISTEN.” There are so many misconceptions about Alzheimer’s. What should the government be doing? What can we do?

In October 2007 I visited Design of the Times (Dott 07) in Newcastle Gateshead where I learnt about the Alzheimers100 project. Dott07 invited service designers thinkpublic to work with North East of England branches of The Alzheimer’s Society, and investigate new methods for improving the everyday lives of people with dementia, their carers and service providers. This project illustrates how designers truly have the power to make a difference to sufferers and their families. I love the fact there are podcasts, images and so much information. Thank you Dott, and thinkpublic, for making this project so accessible!

It makes no sense to me that when you have a physical disease the NHS pay for your treatment. Yet, when you enter the care system your treatment is means tested. A social disease falls into a different category yet again. If you have Alzheimer’s and can’t wash or dress yourself you do not get funded. Although, if you have a stroke the government pay for your treatment. The NHS and social service have to start working together. Now.