Anne Nolan knows more than most how harrowing it can be when a loved one is suffering from dementia.
The former member of The Nolans lost her beloved mother to the disease and is now backing a campaign encouraging everyone to become a ‘Dementia Friend’.
Anne nursed her mum Maureen towards the end of her life and said it was a devastating experience.
Anne said: “It’s an awful, awful disease.
“The treatment and care have improved since my mum died in the 70s, but everyone needs to be much more aware of dementia.
“It’s very sad and a terrible way to end your life.
“I have been raising awareness for the last 10 years. A lot of people think it’s down to age, but it’s caused by a disease.”
Anne, who lives in the resort, is backing Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s dementia awareness campaign, which was launched on Monday.
This week is also national Dementia Awareness Week and events are taking place across the UK.
Blackpool FC legend Jimmy Armfield officially opened the special week at Blackpool Vic.
Nursing staff and volunteers were on hand to greet visitors to guide them round pop-up museums of memorabilia and memories from Blackpool.
This included a specially put together musical slideshow of pictures from The Gazette’s picture archive which is now on display in the reception at the Vic and in wards in Blackpool and Clifton.
Anne led those in attendance with a sing-song and said it was great that people were being encouraged to sign up to become a ‘Dementia Friend’.
She said: “If you become a Dementia Friend you can be trained to know how to deal with someone who has dementia. Living with my mum taught me a lot about how to cope with it and I did a course on how to be a Dementia Friend. Doing the course was very interesting and informative.”
Anne got involved with the trust’s dementia awareness campaign through her daughter Alex’s friend, Francesca Hall, who works with people with dementia at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.
Anne explained: “Francesca and Alex went to St Bede’s School in Lytham. Fran roped me in to do the singing!”
The campaign launch was a huge success.
Jimmy Armfield said: “It’s an absolute privilege to open this event today.
“Like many people I have a connection with the illness. Friends and close relatives have suffered.
“But the understanding and caring of people is vital for people with dementia.
“It affects people in different ways – thinking, reasoning, behaviour patterns, they are all important, but a person’s feelings remain intact.
“We are living in a time when the population is growing, people are living longer so we have to assume that more people will be affected.
“Being a ‘dementia friend’ is important. If we can all sign up as a friend then it will encourage more people to get involved.”
Simone Anderton, Deputy Director of Nursing and Quality for Blackpool Teaching Hospitals, said: “Our role as a Trust is to treat all patients with respect and humanity.
“Understanding dementia, and what it is like to live with the condition as a patient or a care giver, is very important. We want to show our staff what life with dementia is like so they will understand when dealing with patients. To do this we have launched a dementia campaign asking all staff, no matter what area they work in, to learn about the condition and sign up to become a Dementia Friend.”
At the launch there was a wealth of information and stalls including the pop-up museum of 1940s to 1960s memorabilia, arts for health exhibition, dementia workshops as well as vintage afternoon teas and Notarianni’s ice cream.
The campaign is being backed by the Alzheimer’s Society, Age Concern and Care and Repair.
Trust Chief Executive, Gary Doherty, said: “Dementia affects people’s thinking, reasoning, behaviour and memory, but the person’s feelings remain intact.
“Being a dementia friend isn’t about volunteering or fund- raising, although people can do that through our Blue Skies Peace of Mind dementia appeal, it’s about understanding, caring, noticing.”
Gazette editor Jon Rhodes, who personally put together the ‘Lost Archives’ film, said: “Dementia affects so many people. My family is like so many others in that we have been deeply affected by it.
“It was an honour and a privilege to put together a slideshow from The Gazette’s wonderful old pictures which I hope will stoke many happy memories of Blackpool and the Fylde coast and bring comfort to those affected, directly or indirectly, by dementia.”
For more information on the Dementia Friends campaign and events go to www.bfwh.nhs.uk