Our Lives with Dementia

Last week a new short film about dementia in Northern Ireland was shown for the first time. Supported by The Social Change Initiative and produced by Erica Starling Productions, ‘Our Lives with Dementia’ looks at the lived experiences of four people and families in Northern Ireland who are living with dementia.

The powerful film looks at diagnosis experiences, the impact that dementia has on families and the different service provision that exists across Northern Ireland for people with dementia.

Our Lives with Dementia.jpg

Over 19,000 people in Northern Ireland are living with dementia. By 2050, it is predicted that the illness will affect up to 60,000 people. It is also estimated that by 2040, dementia will claim more lives than cancer.

With an ageing population and increasing numbers of people living alone, dementia is one of society’s greatest challenges. With access to the right support across Northern Ireland, people can live well with dementia. A new Dementia Care Pathway has been developed but has not yet been implemented.

The film shows a stark contrast between the services that are available for people who are diagnosed with dementia and living in different parts of Northern Ireland.

Compared to the services that some of the families in the film are able to access, Stephen, who was diagnosed with dementia two years ago when he was 57, lives in rural Fermanagh and shares in the film how difficult accessing support can be. “We have no awareness courses, very little help at all…Once you’re actually in the system, you hear nothing. Dementia NI is my whole release valve.”

This was a feeling and view that was reflected and discussed during the Q&A session which followed the special screening at Queen’s Film Theatre.

Chaired by Tara Mills, the panel consisted of Emily Wilson, who is in the film with her husband Jim who has dementia, Bernadine McCrory who is the Director of the Alzheimer’s Society in Northern Ireland and Seamus McErlean from the Health and Social Care Board who is the Social Care Commissioning Lead (Older People and Adults) and Co-chair of the Dementia Strategy Implementation Group.

Bernandine McCrory, Seamus McErlean, Emily Wilson and Tara Mills

Bernandine McCrory, Seamus McErlean, Emily Wilson and Tara Mills

The audience, which consisted of healthcare professionals, politicians, people living with dementia and organisations who provide support to people and families affected by dementia, joined in on the challenging conversation which focused on the varied service provision, diagnosis stories, and improvements that are needed to help people and families who have been impacted by dementia lead full lives.

While progress has been made, there is still a way to go. Our Lives with Dementia is a touching tribute to those who are living with their diagnosis and it is the hope of the families who are involved that sharing their stories will go some way in helping the wider public understand what it is like to live with a dementia diagnosis.

A full downloadable version of the film can be found here.