Our launch: Dementia Awareness Conference, Cowes Yacht Haven July 17th 2018

An innovative conference has refreshed the debate about the future of Dementia care on the Island. More than 150 care professionals and volunteers attended the Isle of Wight Dementia Awareness Conference at Cowes Yacht Haven on July 17th. The event was organised by the Dementia Awareness Partnership, an initiative that offers training to help people with dementia and the people who care for them.

Maggie Bennett is the CEO of the Alzheimer Cafe Isle of Wight group. She is one of the founders of the Dementia Awareness Partnership which was officially launched at the event.

“Today is important because we need to draw people’s attention to the fact that the number of people with dementia is growing and that resources and services are going to become more and more limited. We need to start to look at a preventative agenda and an early intervention agenda, rather than resorting to the traditional types of care and support that we are used to. We need to be innovative and we need to create change.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to see people attending from every sector and area around health or social care and the voluntary sector. It’s just amazing. At the Dementia Awareness Partnership we want to talk to everybody about our new education program which we’re trying to get rolled out as quickly as possible, starting in September.”

Maggie has partnered with Elizabeth Martin from Carers Isle of Wight to form the Dementia Awareness Partnership. The group’s Project Manager is Barry Jackman, whose commitment to the group is informed by his own experiences of the care system.

Barry says:
“I got involved because I thought “I can’t believe that our care system is so uncaring” I’ve been through that gamut of emotions of having to relinquish the daily care of my wife to somebody else and that’s a very difficult thing to appreciate unless you’ve done it. I’ve been surrounded by people who do the very best that they can but often simply don’t succeed. Potentially good carers were not functioning as excellent carers because they didn’t know really what they were up to. It doesn’t always count as being best practice when you’re doing something that’s completely wrong.”

Elizabeth Martin adds:

“The partnership came about because we felt there was a gap in services – for people with dementia but also for their carers and for the people who find themselves in residential care. What we wanted to do was actually introduce some learning and training that could be available to all, from across the board, from the NHS to care homes to unpaid carers.”

A raft of training was unveiled at the event, along with keynote speeches from Dementia care experts.

Dr Gemma Jones, the founder of the UK Alzheimer Cafe movement hailed the Isle of Wight as one of the most forward thinking places in the country. She praised the event for uniting people from across the care sectors.

“It’s like a chestnut that’s burst open. That’s how I feel because of the growth that’s possible now that we’ve got to this point. That’s a huge difference compared to other places. It’s not just care homes or domiciliary care or hospital staff. What we’re seeing here is everybody from every imaginable kind of service including the hospice and the voluntary agencies. Everybody is participating here. We’re at a new point of possibility here for enormous growth and I’m thrilled to have been allowed to see that and speak here.”

Natasha M Wilson is the Wellbeing Assistant Coordinator at Age UK Sheffield. She shared her own experiences of improving standards in dementia care.

“It’s been a really inspiring day. Partnership working is essential in dementia care. We’re all connected and we all have the potential to work together to change dementia care for the better. It’s so important to get dementia care right because in the UK we’re getting it so wrong. It’s no great secret that feelings matter most in dementia care and in order to connect with people genuinely and authentically you have to be willing to bear your emotions to them, as much as they bear their emotions to you, be them good, bad indifferent. When you connect on that emotional level that is when I found that magic happens and mountains are moved.”

Delegates included representatives from the IW NHS Trust, IW Council, Age Uk, Mountbatten Hospice, the IW Care Commissioning Group, WightCare, Southern Housing Group and Bodster Equine

Maggie Oldham, Chief Executive of the Isle of Wight NHS Trust attended the event along with more than 20 colleagues from the NHS Trust. Maggie Oldham praised the value of the conference which has helped to inspire new thinking at the Trust.

“Events like today are enormously important. The energy in the room and the sharing of experience and learning is just tremendous. You can’t get that in a month’s worth of going to work every day. It’s just great to have such a collection of knowledge and skills and enthusiasm.


A huge amount of the patients and our local community that use our services sadly suffer from Alzheimers or a dementia illness. We’re working to upskill all of our staff to be able to provide services which are much more patient focused than perhaps we’ve done in the past. We heard some great examples today of how we can change the services we provide, just with a little bit more thought, attention to detail and being more inclusive with our users.”


Professor Viv Bennett C.B.E. is the Chief Nurse for Public Health England. Viv chaired the conference and paid tribute to the work that is already going on, as well the potential for the Isle of Wight to be an exemplar of best practice – an “Island of Excellence” when it comes to dementia care.

“I think the foundations are in place here today and if we can harness all of this enthusiasm, knowledge and expertise into very specific actions and if we can actually collectively describe what success would look like and how we measure good, then the Isle of Wight could really lead the way in some of this work.”



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