Society is ageing. People are living longer. While this is a great thing, it also means there is an increased risk of disease and disability. The UK’s current life expectancy is 80 years of age. Current statistics show that one in every six individuals over the age of 80 is suffering from a form of dementia, and the numbers are steadily rising. Dementia has many forms, the most common being Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s characterised by neuronal degeneration, causing profound memory loss, confusion and mood changes. The Alzheimer’s society estimates 800,000 people in the UK are living with dementia.
As the disease progresses, caring for oneself becomes increasingly difficult and in most cases, extensive care is needed. The cost of one dementia patient in a care home is estimated at £31,263 per year. With current NHS shortages and cutbacks, less money is being directed towards elderly and mental health care.
In a published report, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) claimed that they were concerned by the lack of services and support offered, not just for those suffering with dementia, but for any long term health sufferer in today’s economic climate.
Although austerity measures are attacking most public services, the IPPR stated that dementia care should be prioritised: and with an estimated one million dementia sufferers by 2021, it’s clear why this issue is deemed so important.
One of the concerns stemming from the NHS cuts is the effect it will have on the quality of patient life. The Guardian reported four out of five doctors think that current NHS cuts have affected patient care, with less support and services available to them. Because of this, it is becoming increasingly important that volunteers lend their hand to these services. The King’s Fund, an organisation working to improve UK health care, stated volunteers are a “core part of the care team”.
Minds in Motion (MIM) is an award-winning student run volunteering service, aimed at helping those suffering with dementia right here in York. Our aim is to provide services to those suffering that help improve their quality of life. Suffering with dementia is confusing and scary, and so we provide a relaxing atmosphere in which service users can partake in activities that they might not get the opportunity to do in their everyday lives. We run six different sessions, ranging from singing to interactive music.
Our reminiscence therapy session provides an opportunity for service users to explore their past, using photos and souvenirs. This has been found to be extremely comforting and an effective way to enhance cognitive capacity.
An additional initiative run by MIM is the Harmony Café, which provides an opportunity for sufferers of dementia and their carers to socialise with volunteers and others experiencing the same problems. The Harmony Café has become increasingly popular over the years, with people attending regularly to partake in the raffle and make the most of the free tea and cake.
We believe MIM is an excellent project, which not only gives back to the community, but also provides an invaluable life experience. We all know the current difficulty in the job market for graduates, volunteering provides precious work experience that is regarded highly by recruiters.
Within the next academic year, the projects aim is to increase the amount of sessions run each term and widen its availability to more dementia sufferers. If you’d like to become part of this fantastic project, then please email [email protected]. To find out more visit our Facebook page or @MindsinMotionUY on Twitter.