Jack's story: The Mental Health Foundation's dementia self-help group
I have recently been diagnosed by my GP as having early stage Alzheimer's.
I was having difficulty saying words and remembering things that had recently happened. Being told this may sound devastating to you, but for me, understanding what was happening gave me peace of mind. I'm now taking medication and going to the self-help group. I've made friends at the group with others who understand my difficulties. One of my new friends taught me how to play cards and I'm enjoying life more since I've started going to the group.
I live in extra care sheltered accommodation and the other members of the Dementia Self-help Group are tenants there too. We meet weekly, because we all worry about our memory. We support each other, discuss, share and learn. Despite this tricky subject we decided to call ourselves the 'Happy Days Memory Group'. Life isn't always easy but having a happy positive attitude helps.
There are twelve of us with an average age of 86. The oldest in the group is 96 and I'm actually the youngest! Three people help us run the group: Barbara, a fellow tenant; Tom, a psychology graduate wishing to gain experience; and Cindy from the Mental Health Foundation who set up the group.
Each meeting there is a different activity or theme. For example we talked about our names, and discovered everyone has a relative called John! And we discussed how it's hard to remember names and ideas to help us. I've learnt a lot about my mind, memory and also how to do Sudoku, which keeps my mind active. And we've had some really interesting guests to visit us.
As the meetings progressed we decided to write about them on a blog. Do read our blog and please share our experience and ideas with others who may find it useful.
We've all learnt a lot from Cindy, visiting guests and from each other. Together we came up with lots of ideas about how we can take more control of our own lives and enjoy our later years. One of them is to produce a welcome guide for new people coming to live here to make it easier for them to feel at home. I look forward to meeting up each week, making plans, sharing stories and concerns, as well as enjoying the company of the group.
The dementia self help project features in this resource pack on peer support for people with dementia, produced by South London’s Health Innovation Network.