“All the plans you have for your retirement, all the trips you intend on taking, they all have to be adjusted as soon as you hear the word ‘dementia.’ Things that you thought would be part of your retirement, they disappear. But you just have to get on with it and accept that you are going on a different type of journey,” says former Minister for Justice, Nora Owen, of life with her husband Brian who was diagnosed with progressive vascular dementia in 2010.
An ambassador for Dementia: Understand Together, Nora Owen unveiled the campaign’s ‘Moments in Time’ show garden at Bord Bia’s Bloom in Dublin’s Phoenix Park. The garden was designed by Newtown Saunders Ltd, TrinityHaus and Sonas apc.
The garden is an initiative of the Dementia: Understand Together campaign, led by the HSE in partnership with the Alzheimer Society of Ireland and Genio, which aims to create an Ireland that embraces and includes people with dementia, and which displays solidarity with them and their loved ones.
To coincide with the unveiling of the garden, the campaign published its Top Tips for a Dementia-friendly Garden for members of the public online at www.understandtogether.ie/bloom,which includes recommended plants to stimulate memory such as daisies, carnations and hydrangeas.
For Nora Owen, being involved with the Dementia: Understand Togethercampaign and, in particular, its development of a dementia-friendly garden, is particularly fitting as her husband Brian has always had a love of the garden.
“Brian was always such a keen gardener. He loves nothing more than to sit in the swing-chair out the back and look at the wood pigeons nesting there. They give him hours of entertainment. He can’t do all that he used to do to tend to the garden but he still enjoys every bit of it; it gives him such peace. I can see the benefits the garden brings to Brian. He is able to sit out in it with the sun shining on his face and relax. It’s so wonderful for a person with dementia and their carer to be able to get outside with a nice cup of tea and sit peacefully for a while.
“I’m pleased to be able to play my part in raising awareness of dementia, because there is such loneliness and isolation for those involved – both the people with dementia and their carers. We need to open up the discussion and let everyone know that they aren’t alone and that there are many supports for them out there. I am very lucky that, apart from the dementia, Brian is in very good health. He is able to come out with me to the cinema, for something to eat and to the shops. Although he is 85, he is physically better than a lot of other people much younger than he is.
“We recently celebrated our 50thwedding anniversary and while we aren’t travelling the world as we had planned, at least we are spending our retirement together. Some people would give anything for that.”
For Dr Suzanne Timmons, Clinical Lead at the HSE’s National Dementia Office, the garden reflects the core aims of the Dementia: Understand Togethercampaign, which are about reaching out to people with dementia and their loved ones and including them in our lives:
“This ‘Moments in Time’ dementia-friendly garden is an opportunity to understand the importance of maintaining our social connections, of keeping mentally stimulated and of keeping occupied and active. It gets us up close and personal with the outdoors, and the smells, sounds, and colours of nature. Hopefully, it will inspire people to take some of the ideas and to think about the other practical things they can do to create understanding and inclusive communities where people with dementia are supported and connected. We are delighted that the garden will live on in the Arklow Duck Pond, Nature Walk & Leisure Area in County Wicklow and continue to bring benefits to people with dementia and the wider community.”
The Dementia: Understand Together campaign is funded by the HSE and The Atlantic Philanthropies and began in 2015. The campaign website offers a comprehensive information resource on dementia, including a service-finder detailing county-by-county the dementia supports and services available. Support packs, including posters, leaflets and badges, can be ordered also. Visit www.understandtogether.ie or Freephone 1800 341 341.