By 2025 it’s expected that more than a million people will be living with dementia in the UK.
The figure is substantial but it doesn’t factor in those who are related to, live with, care for or have other close relationships with those with the diagnosis.
We simply can’t continue to avoid a dialogue about dementia and those who are directly impacted – including young people.
While dementia is a difficult subject to discuss, the prospect of explaining it to a young child or grandchild is even more daunting – does the word “forgetful” cover it? How much information is too much? Children who have experienced being around people who have dementia understandably struggle to comprehend what dementia actually is.
As a first-year children’s and young people’s nursing student, I was excited to be involved in the Kids Dementia Game Project at my university – Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) – working with Dementia NI and Focus Games.
Alongside five other nursing students and research staff from QUB I helped co-design a game to help educate and empower children on the subject of dementia.
My role within the game’s development was to help facilitate and collate research with the children, provide ideas for how the game was to look and be played, what questions to ask and most importantly, act as an advocate for the children who helped us design the game to ensure their thoughts and ideas were included.
How much information is too much?
This project is particularly personal to me given my two-and-a-half years work as a care assistant in a nursing home, and my grandfather’s diagnosis in 2019.
I know first-hand the challenges faced by care-givers and the emotional toll involved. People living with dementia need support, but so do those caring for them and those who are close to them.
The game has been inspired by the simple yet pragmatic belief that empowering children through education and communication is the most effective way to overcome the stigma and fear associated with dementia.
What is dementia? How does it affect a person? Is there a cure? These are all questions we were asked by the children and young people in the research stage. Children are curious by nature and are eager to learn. It was evident they don’t want to be left in the dark about dementia.
Children are curious by nature
The online game takes about seven minutes to play. It’s free and available on all devices. It’s been designed in a fun and engaging way through the use of mini-games and characters and aims to better equip young people to have a conversion about dementia in their own words.
While its target audience is children aged 7 – 11 years, the learnings should prove helpful across all age ranges.
Please do give the game a go and help spread the word.
Dementia: the facts*
What is dementia?
Dementia is a term that’s used to describe a collection of symptoms including memory loss, problems with reasoning, perception and communication skills. It also leads to a reduction in a person's abilities and skills in carrying out routine activities such as washing, dressing and cooking.
The most common types of dementia are: Alzheimer's disease, Vascular dementia, Fronto-temporal dementia and Dementia with Lewy bodies. Information is available on the Alzheimer's Society website on the different types of dementia.
There are approximately 850,000 people living with dementiaDementia is a progressive condition, which means the symptoms are likely to get worse over time. The progression will vary from person to person and each will experience dementia in a different way.
Dementia: the stats
The number of people with dementia is increasing and presents a significant and urgent challenge to health and social care, both in terms of the number of people affected and the associated cost.
- There are approximately 850,000 people living with dementia.
- Approximately one in six people over the age of 80 have a form of dementia.
- The number of people with dementia is expected to double within 30 years.
- While dementia is predominantly a condition of later life, there are estimated to be at least 42,000 younger people with dementia in the UK: more than 5% of all those with dementia.
Supporting someone with dementia
Dementia has particular implications for family members or friends who are providing care and are directly affected by the changes that dementia can bring about. However, it’s important to be aware that with the right help, people with dementia can be supported to have a good quality of life and experience a sense of wellbeing.
*The information above is from the RCN's clinical resource on dementia