Working together to improve dementia support in Oxfordshire
Glenn Fletcher and his wife, Christine, from Wantage have supported each other throughout their married life together, but nothing prepared them for what they were told when Glenn was diagnosed with dementia in December 2020.
Glenn said: “There were various scans done and that made it clear there was damage in there. But more concerning than that was when the doctor gave the results and said, ‘you’ve got dementia, this is what is dementia is’ and turned to my wife and said, ‘you’re now his carer’.”
This blunt redefining of roles was upsetting for both Glenn and Christine. Neither had any experience of supporting someone with dementia and the diagnosis led the couple on a journey of discovery to really understand what impact it might have on their relationship.
Glenn is now an ambassador for Dementia Oxfordshire – a service provided by Age UK Oxfordshire with funding support from Oxfordshire County Council. He offers his time to help others who have been diagnosed with dementia, as well as their families.
Research by Warwick University, supported by Dementia Oxfordshire, is looking to learn from the experiences of people like Glenn, by carrying out a study of the network of support available to people when they are diagnosed with dementia and how these might be improved.
Work has already identified common difficulties that people living with dementia, their families and carers face. The aim now is to put together a more comprehensive study, with the overall goal of improving access to support and making it more joined-up or connected, which will benefit people living with dementia in Oxfordshire and more widely.
Happily, for Glenn and Christine, by working together they found they were able to continue their relationship, not the same as before, but still able to love and support each other.
By taking relatively simple steps – like marking events on a calendar and speaking honestly about any worries and frustrations – Glenn retains meaning in his life and his wife has been able to reconcile the challenges of being both a wife and a carer.
Glenn said: “I think our relationship is probably a bit stronger now, because we’re both a unit. Christine has been incredibly helpful to me in coping with my diagnosis.
“I’ve found when I’ve been open about my dementia status, people have been helpful and not overly worried about it. I think the thing is not to be too frightened by it.”
Glenn continues to work with Dementia Oxfordshire, sharing his own experiences to support others who have recently been given a dementia diagnosis.
Councillor Tim Bearder, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, said: “It must be an extremely unsettling time to be told you or a loved one has dementia, but there is help out there.
“I hope this new research leads to more positive experiences for people, strengthening our Oxfordshire Way vision to enable people to live happy, independent lives, within their own communities, for as long as possible.”
A short video about Glenn and his experiences can be viewed here.
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