School of Health and Society 10.08.20

New dementia book to ‘dispel the myths and fears’ of the condition

Two women with first-hand experience of the impact of dementia, have contributed to a new accessible book about the condition written by a professor at the University of Salford.

Professor of dementia Anthea Innes hopes that Dementia: The Basics will help to better peoples’ understanding of dementia, no matter their background.

The book was co-written with Lesley Calvert and Gail Bowker, who are associates at the University of Salford’s Institute of Dementia. The Institute was launched in 2017 to conduct vital research into living well with dementia.  

At 61, Lesley was working her dream job as a district nurse, when she was diagnosed with dementia.

The diagnosis took away her independence – it ended her career and meant she could no longer drive.

‘I was forgetting where I was driving, then panicking. So I felt as though I was a danger to other road users - I would have hated to cause an accident. I would never have forgiven myself.’

Lesley, who lives in Swinton, and her husband Sam had planned for a great retirement, but as Lesley was now on job seeker’s allowance and had lost her independence, it never materialised.

Sam became Lesley’s “back-up brain,” always on the same wavelength as her to help bring her back on track. Yet he never automatically jumped in and spoke for her – he would always wait for her to look at him for help.

Since husband Sam died in 2017, her children took over caring for her.

‘I don’t think they realised how hard it was going to be. They are now coping better with my ups and downs.’

Reflecting on life seven years since her diagnosis, Lesley is hopeful.

She said: ‘Although at first, I was angry, I soon realised that I still had a lot to give and started helping others by talking about my dementia, and how it affected me. I always say when one door closes another door opens. Although it’s getting harder for me, I’m still me, hardworking and caring.’

Gail Bowker has been an unpaid carer since 2010, when her mother – and eventually her father – were diagnosed with different types of dementia.

Following her mother's passing in 2017, Gail and her father became involved with the Institute of Dementia as associates, among other groups making a difference to those whose lives have been impacted dementia.

Sadly Gail’s father passed away in February 2020, so has not been able to see the finished product. 

Gail said: ‘The book seeks to dispel the myths and fears associated with dementia. It also acts as an educational aid for professionals with the hope that lessons can be learned on how to approach and communicate with a person living with dementia and their care providers.’

Anthea describes Lesley and Gail’s contributions as ‘powerful.’

She said: “Working in the way we did took time and patience from us all, but I think the end product has been worth all our efforts. We have a lovely book that should be useful for anyone who wants to learn a bit more about what we see as ‘the basics’ that anyone dealing with dementia in any way needs to know a bit about.”

Dementia: The Basics is available now from Routledge.  

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