Eastbourne dementia wives on television

The four Eastbourne women featuring in Channel 4's Dementiaville
The four Eastbourne women featuring in Channel 4's Dementiaville

The remarkable story of four Eastbourne women who met through a dementia day care centre in the town will be featured in a documentary next week.

Dementiaville is a three-part series by Channel 4, and the third and final episode will follow the day-to-day lives of four “dementia wives”.

The programme will shine a spotlight on day care centre Ivy House, and the lives of June Aiken, 69, Jenny Eldridge, 67, June Mellors, 79 and Sheila Winterton, 75.

All four have cared for husbands with dementia, and the programme will depict their journeys and experience as dementia wives.

Jane Lowe, a psychologist who founded Ivy House, has also been working with Channel 4 to put together a documentary showing a brighter side of dementia.

She said, “Being part of this documentary has been an enormous privilege and I am inspired by the women who have opened their lives to the cameras. Society must accept that dementia is here to stay, and that the individuals who have dementia remain people, people who deserve every bit as much care and affection and yes, attention as every other member of society.”

The Alzhemer’s Society said there are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, with numbers set to rise to over 1 million by 2025. 225,000 will develop dementia this year, that’s one every three minutes.

With the prevalence of the condition in an aging population, respite centres like Ivy House are becoming a lifeline to dementia-suffers and their loved ones. Ivy House aims to improve wellbeing and enhance the quality of life of the individual as well as his or her carer.

In many cases this means that home life can be continued for much longer than would otherwise be the case.

People take part in the cooking and the preparation of meals, they are helped to paint and sing and dance and go for walks in the local area.

Some enjoy darts and pool and take part in woodwork or pottery, others help maintain the garden. Alongside these more formal activities the team engage people in conversation, play simple games with them and focus closely on developing skills which the person may have lost. All within the boundaries of a care plan specifically developed to the needs and desires of the individual.

The final episode of the three-part series is focused around Ivy House because of its progressive approach to dementia.

A Channel 4 spokesman said, “The series will explore the latest thinking in dementia care which aims to alleviate the anxiety and confusion of sufferers and their families, whilst celebrating the person they once were. Led by experts in dementia care, Dementiaville will uncover dramatic real-life stories, using reconstruction and archive to re-discover the person behind the dementia. Families in crisis will be empowered as they discover emotional and practical progressive care showing them it is possible to cope and live better with dementia. In the final episode of Dementiaville, the focus is on marriage, following the stories of four wives whose husbands all have dementia. Jenny, June, Sheila and June meet regularly at Ivy House, a respite day centre in Eastbourne, run by Jane Lowe. Jane’s approach is to help the wives hold on to their husbands for as long as possible - by encouraging them to build new memories.”

If you are worried about dementia, you can visit Ivy House and talk to the team, at one of its monthly open house sessions. The next on is on Saturday July 4 from 11am – 12.30pm. For more visit www.ivyhouse-dementiacare.com or call 01323 431 801. Dementiaville will air on Thursday June 18 at 11pm on Channel 4.

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