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Journalist, Broadcaster and Former GMTV presenter, Fiona Phillips and Rt Hon Hazel Blears speak at University of Salford’s Institute for Dementia event


Journalist, Broadcaster and Former GMTV presenter, Fiona Phillips and Rt Hon Hazel Blears speak at University of Salford’s Institute for Dementia event

Wednesday 6 May 2015

Journalist, broadcaster and former GMTV presenter, Fiona Phillips, called her experience of caring for her parents with dementia a “catalogue of disasters” at the University of Salford’s ‘How was it for you?’ event on Tuesday May 5. 

Fiona and former MP, Rt Hon Hazel Blears, both discussed their experiences of looking after loved ones living with dementia at the event, which sought to hear people’s personal experiences of caring for people with the condition.

Fiona cared for both her parents during the time they had dementia and travelled from London to Wales to provide them with care, before moving her father closer to her home.

Speaking before the event, Fiona said: “I took him for a ride one day and never took him home. Fortunately, I had the means to do that but so many people don’t.”

Fiona also discussed the importance of events, such as those hosted by the University’s Institute for Dementia, and how they can help raise awareness of dementia.

She said: “The more we talk about it, the more understanding there will be and the things that happened to my parents will not happen to other people. I just want to help people understand because it’s a term that is used a lot but not really understood.

“The Institute for Dementia is a brilliant idea and there’s real passion behind it. It’s unique and I think to have to a place that really specialises in dementia can only be a good thing.”

Rt Hon Hazel Blears is the Chair of the Institute for Dementia’s External Advisory Board and she spoke about her experience of caring for her mum, Dorothy.

She said: “The person that you love is still there, it might be harder for you to contact them but you can communicate. That person is just as important as they ever were. Just because they’ve got a disease doesn’t mean they can be treated in a way which any of us would find unacceptable.

“I feel as a person’s physical capacity declines they get to be seen as more of an object than a person and the conversations become transactional: “Have you had your medication?”, instead of asking: “Are you happy? Are you sad? How do you feel?”

“I want to talk about how you treat people who happen to have a disease rather than looking at them as the disease and taking away all their humanity.”

Joy Watson, a member of the Institute’s External Advisory Group who is living with dementia and was diagnosed at the age of 55, said that working with the University gets her out of bed in the morning.

The Institute for Dementia is currently looking at how to improve the quality of the lives of people living with dementia and how to involve them in activities ranging from gardening to singing.

The event was chaired by the University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor, Professor Maggie Pearson, and ended with the participants answering questions from the audience.