WEARSIDE MATTERS: A service on hand to offer hope

Staff at the Essence Service's Sir Thomas Allen Centre.
Staff at the Essence Service's Sir Thomas Allen Centre.
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People living with the early stages of dementia are being urged to seek out help on their doorstep, after it was announced that the condition has overtaken heart disease as the leading cause of death across England and Wales.

The Essence Service, which provides care and support to those diagnosed as living with dementia in Sunderland, has issued a prompt to ensure people are aware that support is easily accessible, after concerns that newly-released ONS figures may lead people to believe that a diagnosis is ‘the end of the road’ for those with the condition.

Alan Patchett, director at Age UK Sunderland, has moved to reassure people with a dementia diagnosis that help is available to ensure they enjoy the best quality of life possible.

The service also supports the family members of those diagnosed, and is delivered on behalf of Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), with support from Sunderland Carers’ Centre and the Alzheimer’s Society.

Mr Patchett said: “Dementia comes with so many preconceptions, but the reality is that people can live a happy and fulfilling life for many years, in spite of a diagnosis.

“We work with hundreds of people each year, to support them as they come to terms with, and begin to deal with, a dementia diagnosis.

“Once they move past the initial shock, a great many of them are able to see that it is not the end of the road, and that there are lots of things that can be done to slow the condition’s development, and make friends and fond memories in the meantime.”

Last year, more than 61,000 people died of dementia, more than 11per cent of all recorded deaths.

While, in part, this could be impacted by improved diagnosis techniques, Mr Patchett believes that an aging population is also something that will see the figure continue to increase.

He said: “People are living longer, and that is something we should celebrate, but of course, it comes at a price and more needs to be done to understand and prevent this condition.

“In the meantime though, it is about offering the best care possible, and that is what we are absolutely dedicated to doing.

“We know, from speaking to service users, that the impact of the support we provide is life-changing, and that’s something we are proud of, and want to continue to provide to people in the city at what – for many – can be among the most challenging times of their life.”

The Essence Service offers a wide range of practical support to people with an early dementia diagnosis by giving information in areas around health, wellbeing and legal issues while ensuring they are aware of how to access services that are of benefit to them.

They also receive emotional and peer support to help understand and deal with their dementia diagnosis in a positive way.

To find out more about the Essence Service, which is delivered from a main base, and with regular outreach sessions held throughout the city, visit www.essenceservice.org.uk or call 0191 522 1310.

DEMENTIA SUPPORT SPREADS ITS REACH

Dementia support has been taken to the streets of Sunderland, with the launch of outreach sessions from a leading city support service.

The Essence Service, which is run by Age UK Sunderland, working with Sunderland Carers’ Centre and the Alzheimer’s Society, is running ‘pop up’ community sessions at venues across Sunderland.

The outreach clubs, which take place weekly, provide a chance for those with a dementia diagnosis and their loved ones to come along and meet the team for information, advice, activities, refreshments, or just a chat.

The Essence Service delivers its core activities from the Sir Thomas Allen Centre in Doxford Park, but has launched its outreach groups to ensure more people can take advantage of the service.

Alan Patchett, director of Age UK Sunderland, which runs the Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG)-funded service, said: “The Essence Service has proven to be hugely popular, and a vital source of support for people who have been diagnosed with dementia and need advice, information or just a friendly face to help them get by.

“However, we know that whilst the Sir Thomas Allen Centre is a fantastic main hub, people could be put off by the travel to make it along to join us.

“The pop-up sessions provide an opportunity to take support to those who need it, and ensure that we are providing the best level of care to people who have received the life-changing diagnosis of dementia.”

The outreach clubs are run from Sunderland Carers Centre, in Southwick on Mondays; the Bradbury Centre, on Stockton Road on Tuesdays; the Millennium Centre in Concord on Wednesdays; Pennywell Neighbourhood Centre on Thursdays; and the Metcalfe Centre, in Hetton on Fridays. All sessions run between 1:30pm and 4pm.

Mr Patchett added: “The community-based sessions are free to access and operate on a drop in basis, so people can pop along, and find out more. The team will be there to welcome them and to talk them through what we have to offer and the ways we can provide support.”

For more, visit www.ageuk.org.uk/sunderland/our-services/essence-service/ or call 0191 522 1310.