Caring for people

  • The List
  • 7 August 2008
Caring for people

People with dementia are learning to live their lives to the full

When people consider retirement they often think of all the fun things they’ll be able to do that they’ve never had time for before. This dream is occasionally cut short when someone close to them discovers they have dementia but that is not to say the fun has to stop.

It is estimated that up to 66,000 people in Scotland have dementia, with numbers expected to rise by 75 per cent to 114,000 by 2031.

Dementia is more common with age, affecting about 1 in 14 people over 65 but more than 1 in 4 over 85. It also affects 1,600 people in Scotland between 30 and 65.

Early on in the illness, the person might just be a bit forgetful or repeat things. Some may get lost or have problems counting money. Later, people become more confused. They may lose track of conversations or can’t find the right words. Eventually, people may need help with everyday tasks such as eating and dressing.

But at every stage there is plenty that people with dementia can enjoy.

With the right help, people with dementia can still enjoy a good quality of life and supporting them can be rewarding for both carers and volunteers.

Jim Hardie (72) from Peterhead will not let Alzheimer’s disease stop him from doing the things he enjoys most in life and goes about his daily routine as normal.

However, when first diagnosed with the disease in November 2005, his feelings were very different: “I felt very isolated and singled out somehow, as though I was the only one with Alzheimer’s.” In March 2006 he was accepted to take part in a drug trial and through a social group he heard about the Positive Dementia Group run by Alzheimer Scotland.

The Group, which meets monthly, has 12 members with some form of dementia. They share their feelings about what is happening to them and also participate in activities and discussions that encourage positive thinking.

Jim’s wife and carer, Dorothy (69), explains: “It allows them to inspire each other. They find a new confidence in themselves which keeps them strong. Now Jim is very open about his illness and doesn’t hide the fact that he has it. Our family, including five grandchildren, and close friends are all supportive.”

Nowadays, Jim enjoys life and takes part in the various activities that he took part in prior to diagnosis and more: “I grew up on the croft that I live on today. I have a fishery that I enjoy spending time at as well as a horse that I look after. I’m never bored.”

Jim and his wife also go regular weekend breaks to places such as Inverness and Perth with couples from the Positive Dementia Group and are planning a trip to Ballater this summer. Dorothy enjoys the company of other carers who can appreciate what she is going through: “I feel I can relax around the other couples as we are all in the same boat. We have met so many new friends through Jim’s group.”

Once every two months, Jim attends a Scottish Dementia Working Group, which uses his experience to influence and inform Health and Social Work Departments.

If you’d like more information, contact Alzheimer Scotland on 0808 808 3000 or email

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