Thanks to devolution, Greater Manchester is making strides towards its ambition of making the entire city region the most ‘dementia-friendly’ in the UK.

This week, May 21-27, is Dementia Awareness Week.

Post devolution, seven extra people are being diagnosed with dementia in Greater Manchester every day.

Improved and consistent support is increasingly available to them and their families as devolution benefits begin to pay off.

Before April 2016, our dementia diagnosis rates were already higher than the national average. Now with added investment and accelerated changes to the way we do things, seven more people a day are being diagnosed.

With a £2.29m investment in GM’s long-term programme Dementia United we are looking to cushion the initial diagnosis and provide the best possible expert care and support to people living with dementia.

Vitally we listen and learn from people living with dementia.

Devolution has enabled us to gather all sorts of professionals and volunteers working in dementia and work more closely with each other. We are learning from the already great examples of dementia services across Greater Manchester and beyond. And vitally we listen and learn from people living with dementia, like Alan Mills.

Alan, a former security guard, received a diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s three years ago, and this, he says, ‘felt like the end of the world’.

The 65-year from Rochdale said: “At the time I was diagnosed I was gutted. I went home and I just felt empty, like it was the end of the world. But then I had a little think and you just pull yourself together and get on with it.”

At the time support for people living with dementia was difficult to identify, but thanks to a ‘lucky’ phone call to see what might be available, Alan found the Angel Project in Rochdale.

Already keen on crafts, Alan became involved in woodworking classes at the Angel Project, run by Living Well as a community hub. It has helped him keep busy, and meet lots of like-minded individuals.

As the Dementia United project developed following devolution Alan has become involved, using his own experience to help to shape services for people living with dementia.

He’s spoken at conferences, appeared on TV, and given his views to meetings involving Mayor Andy Burnham and Health and Social Care Partnership Chief Executive Jon Rouse. He is a voting member of GM’s dementia governance board.

It makes me feel someone is listening. It’s given us a purpose and a voice.

Alan is keen to see that the thousands of people receiving a diagnosis of dementia in GM get the best possible experience.

He said: “I sit on a governance group, I also get a vote. With Dementia United I have highlighted the things I think are important to people with dementia.

“It makes me feel someone is listening. It’s given us a purpose and a voice.”

“Working with Dementia United and through devolution we are trying to achieve a dementia-friendly Greater Manchester. We are doing that now, we are leaders if not just in this country but in the world.”

You can watch a video of Alan speaking about the difference devolution has made to him here:

Devolution wins for dementia

Devolution has helped us shape the Dementia United programme, which has core aims of improving the overall experience of people living with dementia, increasing their independence and decreasing variation of service in GM.

There have been some terrific wins since summer 2015, when dementia was identified as an early priority for the devolution programme.

  • We’ve been working with Greater Manchester’s community pharmacies to train their staff (including drivers who deliver prescriptions) to be more aware of dementia, and make changes that can help. This could mean making time to help people with dementia fill in a repeat prescription or count out their money. A dementia-friendly layout means there’s somewhere quiet to talk to them.
  • We’ve helped Greater Manchester Police introduce a scheme called the Herbert Protocol. This encourages carers and family members to write down key information about a person with dementia, like what medicines they’re taking, their normal routine and favourite places to visit, and keep it in a safe place. Then if the person then goes missing, this can be handed over to the police to help search for them.
  • We’ve also been encouraging local people to make the most of the world-class dementia research being done in Greater Manchester, and be the first to try new treatments and products as part of research projects.
  • Devolution is making it easier for us to share learning about dementia. We’ve produced a special education and training pack for health and care workers, including a free toolkit. People with dementia and their carers had a say in its design, so it reflects real-life experiences of giving and receiving dementia care.

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