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EWGPWD Vice-Chair discusses dementia and sensory challenges on Australian TV

Friday 17 June 2016

During a recent conference in Sydney, Australia Agnes Houston MBE, Vice Chair of the European Working Group of People with Dementia (EWGPWD) was interviewed by the Aged Care Channel Newsroom programme.

During the interview, Ms Houston described some of the sensory challenges she and many others living with dementia experience on a regular basis. She calls these her “daily scary challenges”. One of the main examples she gave is her struggle with Hyperacusis – an increased sensitivity to certain frequency and volume ranges of sound, making some everyday sounds seem unpleasantly or painfully loud. She also touched on other challenges, such as visual, auditory and olfactory hallucinations.

Sensory challenges are not well understood or even on the radar of many people, who often associate dementia with memory problems alone and Ms Houston feels very strongly that life for people with dementia who experience these issues would be better were there more awareness and understanding.

In 2015, Ms Houston, with the help of her daughter Donna and funding from the Life Changes Trust, researched and wrote a booklet called “Dementia and Sensory Challenges”.

In September 2015, she and her daughter presented a poster about the booklet project at the 25th Alzheimer Europe conference in Slovenia:

“I was overwhelmed by the positive response it received and so proud that the poster was voted as the best in its category” she wrote, thanking the 25 people with dementia, “whose words and lived experience of dementia and sensory challenges influenced the content”.

“This booklet does not have all the answers, instead it shows how even with little or no help the people with dementia found their own answers and just got on with life the best they could. I hope this booklet will inspire professionals in the sensory world to use their skills to assist us to remain connected to family and friends, and remain safe in our communities. And to all people with dementia like those of us featured in this booklet: it is possible to have a good life, yes, even with dementia and sensory challenges!”

It is entirely free and available for download here: http://www.sdwg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Sensory-Leaflet.pdf

The interview with Aged Care Channel can be viewed here: http://www.acctv.co/au/newsroom/daily-scary-challenges-agnes-houston/

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