Fringe Box



Practical Support For People Living With Dementia

Published on: 6 Mar, 2020
Updated on: 6 Mar, 2020

By Rebecca Curley, Local Democracy Reporter

T0 most people it is a black doormat to wipe dirty feet on.

But to a person living with dementia it could be a dangerous hazard they need to avoid.

Pictured in front of Guildford Cathedral, Penny Giles is one of Surrey’s 13 dementia navigators, who give support to dementia suffers and also their families.

“A black mat for someone with dementia might appear to look like a hole in the ground,” says Penny Giles.

“It [dementia] can affect what the brain perceives the eyes are seeing. The brain will try and come to its own conclusion from what it’s seen in previous experiences,” she adds.

Penny is one of the 13 dementia navigators in Surrey providing support to people living with dementia and their families.

This includes helping them to understand the disease and how it will affect loved ones or the person with dementia – such as how the brain works differently.

There are around 17,388 people living with dementia in Surrey.

According to NHS figures for August 2019, between 67% and 69% of those estimated to have dementia in the county now have a formal diagnosis.

This was said to be the highest diagnosis rate for the county on record.

But as Penny explains – there could be many more.

“It’s hidden and a lot of people are hidden away and really struggling,” she adds.

It is thought another 5,000 people are still living with the condition but have not had a formal diagnosis.

With an increasing ageing population, the number of people to have dementia is set to rise.

Surrey County Council is working with the Alzheimer’s Society to support patients and their families in a bid to help them live more independently.

The Dementia Navigators offer one-to-one and face-to-face support and guidance to help people understand the diagnosis, cope with their needs and access extra help such as financial help.

Penny, who covers the borough of Waverley, and the team also help people prepare and plan for the future when the family member may lose capacity as the disease gets worse and they can no longer make decisions or cope on their own.

She says: “We know that dementia is a life-shortening illness and people will lose mental capacity in their journey. It’s a hard conversation to have but we try to get people to think about power of attorney and legal issues so they know how they want to be looked after when they lose the capacity to look after themselves.”

Simple changes such as changing the doormat so it does not look like a black hole, or painting kitchen cupboards so they don’t all look the same and confuse the person who loses things can be made to homes to help people adapt.

Penny says: “It’s possible to live with dementia at home if you get the support at the right time. There is a quality of life to be had.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, dementia is the term used to describe a number of different conditions affecting the brain, including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia.

Symptoms can include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language.

The changes can be small to start with but can severely affect daily life.

Once a diagnosis has been made GPs, mental health teams or the individual or family can refer to the Dementia Navigators.

Penny says: “For the people who are pragmatic about it, it’s a bit of a relief. But for other people it’s incredibly scary because of the whole negativity around it.”

She said common questions include how long has someone got to live? And what’s it going to be like?

She adds: “Everybody’s dementia experience is different.

“It’s very tiring and exhausting. From the moment they wake up to the moment they go to bed their brain is having to work out so many things.

“The isolation is one of the things we really work hard on because for someone with dementia their world shrinks and shrinks.”

One area the team also work with is bereavement.

“A lot of people feel bereaved before the person has died,” she adds.

Surrey County Council is hoping the dementia navigators will help people live in their homes for longer.

Cllr Sinead Mooney, cabinet member for adult services and Public Health, said: “Dementia is different for everyone and this excellent service gives people support which is tailored to their needs, enabling them to stay independent for longer in the familiar surroundings of their own home.

“The information and support the navigators offer helps people gain control after a dementia diagnosis and plan for the future, making the most of all the support available in their local communities.”

For more information:

Contact the Dementia Navigators on 01932 855582 or email

The National Dementia Helpline is on 0300 222 1122.

Share This Post

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *